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Headshot of Steven Ortega

Steven Ortega

  • Hosted by Northwest Justice Project
  • Sponsored by Costco Wholesale
  • Service location King County, Washington
  • Law school Stanford Law School
  • Issue area Housing- Advocacy and Policy
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Steven’s project will reduce housing insecurity for Section 8 recipients and their families by providing comprehensive representation throughout the subsidy termination process and piloting a subsidy termination appeals program.

Section 8 program subsidies are a crucial lifeline towards housing stability for more than 43,000 tenants and their families in King County yet may be terminated in administrative hearings with limited due process protections for program recipients. The loss of Section 8 assistance in King County’s unaffordable rental market almost certainly guarantees the loss of stable housing for a tenant population that is primarily elderly and disabled, disproportionally made up of people of color, and definitionally low-income. Although Section 8 recipients may appeal the termination of their housing subsidy in state court, no legal service provider in Washington State currently provides representation for such appeals.

Steven was called to begin his legal education after organizing a tenant union in his apartment complex during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has dedicated his time in law school to supporting low-income tenants as a community organizer, Equal Justice America fellow at East Bay Community Law Center, and Student Coordinator of Stanford Law School’s Housing Pro Bono Project

Fellowship Plans

Steven will expand legal services for Section 8 recipients in King County through direct representation and by streamlining intake pathways for potential clients by collaborating with Washington-based tenant organizations to reach Section 8 recipients via frequent in-person ‘know your rights’ trainings. He will utilize public records requests to obtain novel data on the frequency of subsidy termination and the demographic characteristics of terminees that will aid legal advocates in targeting outreach to Section 8 recipients and identify potential racial disparities in subsidy termination. Steven will develop training and practice materials to identify effective representational strategies for subsidy termination matters that will inform the work of legal providers across Washington.

“My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to develop this client-centered project to expand legal services for a traditionally underserved group of tenants. I am proud to launch my legal career focusing on the issues of housing security and displacement that have shaped my life.”

Steven Ortega /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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