Law 959 - Los Angeles Housing Law & Policy

Nisha Vyas

Nisha Vyas

Lecturer in Law
Course Description:

Stable housing is at the center of all major life activities – health, educational attainment, employment opportunity, and community engagement. Yet too many people across California, including Los Angeles County, are living in uninhabitable and overcrowded conditions, living in housing that they struggle to afford, or are living without any shelter at all.

California is experiencing two overlapping crises: a critical shortage of affordable housing and increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness. There are numerous reasons why our state, and our region, is experiencing these crises. A critical component is the availability – or lack thereof – of tenant protections, and the resources to enforce those protections.

With increasing housing costs due to real estate speculation, the last decade has brought increased displacement of existing communities, primarily communities of color, in Los Angeles neighborhoods shaped by historical politics of exclusion. Formal and informal evictions disrupt housing and community stability. Housing advocates and activists have therefore in recent years sought to improve tenant protections and access to justice for low-income tenants. There is also an increasing desire to examine the existing legal framework of evictions and whether it continues to serve societal interests.

Los Angeles Law & Policy will provide an introduction to state and local housing law and policy with a focus on low-income tenants. The course will be framed by a hypothetical case involving a low-income family living in Los Angeles and facing eviction from a long-term tenancy. In examining the facts and circumstances of this case, we will discuss the shaping of local neighborhoods by the politics of exclusion, including racial segregation; fair housing laws and principles; gentrification and displacement; healthy living environment; the affordable housing crisis; evictions and access to justice. Through this course, students will develop the background necessary to understand and evaluate the various strategies that housing advocates and activists are using to address housing affordability and stability.

We believe this course will complement, but not duplicate, the existing course offerings relating to property law and economic development. Further, we anticipate openings in the legal market for attorneys to specialize in housing law, including eviction defense. Los Angeles County has committed funds to create an eviction defense program that it anticipates will grow in coming years. This course is intended to spark interest in this important area of law with growing need for public interest lawyers for low-income tenants.

Course Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this course, students should gain the following substantive knowledge and practical skills:

  • Knowledge of state laws regulating the landlord-tenant relationship and the ability and limits of local governments to use police powers to govern the same.
  • Knowledge of structural patterns of racial segregation and its lasting impacts, including gentrification and displacement.
  • Knowledge of how the summary eviction process works in Los Angeles Superior Court, including commonly used affirmative defenses.
  • Knowledge of skills for handling an eviction case at all stages, from interviewing a client to the first trial date, with a focus on cultural competency and racial equity.

Course Information:
​Faculty Term Course Section ​Schedule ​Units Requisite Satisfies SAW
Nisha Vyas / Dianne Prado 21S 959 LEC 1 Unscheduled 2.0 No No
  Course meets 1/4/21 - 1/8/21 and 1/11/21 - 1/15/21 from 1:20 - 4:00pm.
Textbook Information:
Textbook for Spring 2021 LEC 1
Desmond, Matthew. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City    
ISBN: 9780553447453. Crown Publishers. REQUIRED $17.00