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TU Law Students Identify Link Between Housing and Health in Tulsa

As a part of their work with the Lobeck Taylor Community Advocacy Clinic through The University of Tulsa College of Law, three students have uncovered the link between poor housing and health outcomes in Tulsa. The study, authored by Preston Brasch, Courtney Nelbach and Mike Shouse for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, has been presented with great interest to the Tulsa Mayor’s administration including Nick Doctor, chief of community development and policy.

Housing study authors and TU Law students Preston Brasch and Mike Shouse speaking with Lis Exon of OETA.

“The clinic was an opportunity to explore policy work at a very substantial and in-depth level while learning how to represent a client,” said Brasch, TU law student and study coauthor. “So much of what students do in school is an exercise or skill development, but not so much application of those skills. Clinic, however, offered the chance to develop skills that allowed our team to create a product that is still having an effect on the community at large.”

The study estimates that 52 percent of Tulsa renters are currently living in substandard or overcrowded housing, and points out that “substandard homes can expose families to natural gas leaks, lead paint poisoning, pest infestation, poor water, unsanitary conditions, extreme weather and high levels of moisture and mold. In fact, prolonged exposure to such conditions can cause serious short and long-term physical and mental health problems including injuries, respiratory diseases, neurological disorders, poor child development and psychological dysfunction.”

The study identifies the areas in Tulsa that have concentrated poverty and more substandard housing as well as possible solutions including enforcement of housing ordinances, managing vacant and abandoned homes, conducting home inspections and possible funding options.

“I didn’t realize just how much this project would mean to the City of Tulsa,” said Brasch. “I’ve had a number of people who work in city hall tell me that they have read our report. It seems to have elevated the awareness of Tulsa’s housing problem and provided a tool for advocates to effectuate positive change.”

TU Law student Courtney Nelbach and Preston Brasch after meeting with Nick Doctor, Tulsa’s chief of community development and policy regarding the housing study and recommendations.

The students conducted their research by gathering data and interviewing experts in late 2016. Click here for a full copy of the report.

The Lobeck Taylor Community Advocacy Clinic (CAC) at The University of Tulsa College of Law offers students the opportunity to explore the ethical, strategic and theoretical dimensions of legal practice by solving real-life legal problems in a structured learning environment.