First-year Ohio Access to Justice Foundation Justice for All Fellow Stacy Purcell developed a passion for housing law while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with Community Matters, a development non-profit in Cincinnati. Purcell spent a year between undergrad and law school living and working in the neighborhood she served, learning about the housing market and the challenges of low-income homeowners and potential homeowners.

“What I realized is that many of the problems facing low-income Cincinnati residents are legal problems at their core,” she said.

Now a University of Notre Dame law grad, Purcell has returned to Cincinnati to build on her experience through her Justice for All fellowship with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. She will provide clients with direct legal services and use policy advocacy to promote and preserve homeownership in three majority-Black neighborhoods.

“I’ll be doing mostly foreclosure prevention work, but I’ll also be doing advocacy and representation for homeowners before they get to that foreclosure phase,” she said. “We hope to resolve problems that clients have to allow them to stay in their homes.”

As a Cincinnati native, Purcell saw the need in the city for affordable housing. While researching her fellowship, she found large disparities between Black and white homeowners. Black homeowners in Cincinnati lose their homes to foreclosure at much higher rates than their white counterparts.

Purcell also found that urban revitalization in historically Black neighborhoods threatened to displace current homeowners, who serve as staples in their communities.

“We want to make sure that current homeowners aren’t displaced and that long-time residents have an opportunity to become homeowners themselves,” she said.

A few months into her fellowship, Purcell has already participated in tax advocacy work.

“I’ve been doing some policy work around the way property taxes affect and influence low-income homeowners,” she said. “[Hopefully] it will preserve existing homeowners, particularly in neighborhoods where the property values are increasing at a higher rate.”

Purcell will also be working with different community partners and collaborating on plans to best address housing needs in the targeted neighborhoods. She hopes to make a sustainable impact in her targeted communities, which will ultimately preserve the historical value of the neighborhoods.

“My client population will be more targeted in these neighborhoods,” she said. “That will allow me to make more systemic changes that will hopefully have greater influence.”

The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation funds law school graduates with a passion for public service to address urgent legal problems facing Ohioans. Meet the Justice for All Fellows.