Profile: Stephanie Johnson, M.A. & J.D.

MA, JD at Boston College Law School

“Being at UEP, I’ve taken classes where I have been able to focus on housing policy, especially shared equity housing. The thing about law school is that since it’s such a generalist degree, you can’t focus in on a specific topic. I knew that to get the experience I was looking for, I needed two degrees. But I also want to be a practicing attorney. There’s a lot that needs to be done when it comes to housing, and UEP is exposing me to that. UEP is giving me the vision, and the law degree is giving me the skills.

“Most of the time, you can tell an affordable development from a market rate development. It creates a feeling of being othered. So I think as affordable housing evolves, we should look at the role it’s playing in the built environment and make sure that we’re not separating people, and making them feel less than.

“With the legal aspect, I want to be able to ensure that these developers and construction companies live up to what they promise. Especially with these public private partnerships, it’s a $10 billion industry and we need to make sure that investors and developers are creating attractive units. The cost to make an affordable unit is almost the same as a market rate unit.

“For my field project at UEP, I looked at zoning in Union Square and I worked on ways to use zoning to safeguard immigrant-owned restaurants and food markets. They’re at risk of being displaced, with Union Square becoming this new employment hub. I’m also working at an affordable housing law firm, so it’s the best of both worlds. Being able to focus more on housing with UEP is helpful, because legal writing and work is so technical. UEP has allowed me to not lose my advocacy-type writing when it comes to creating a strong policy piece.

“I also really like my UEP cohort. It’s inspiring to be around driven people who care about others, the environment and the world. It’s inspiring to be around that energy, and it makes me want to do better work.”