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UVa Law School awards Albemarle County official Mike Pruitt $55k to fight housing discrimination

The University of Virginia has awarded a local elected official $55,000 to combat housing discrimination practices.

Third-year UVa law student and Albemarle County Supervisor Mike Pruitt won the Powell Fellowship on Monday, an annual award that honors late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.

The honor is typically renewed for a second year and reserved for students who provide legal services to low-income clients through a public interest organization.

For Pruitt, that organization is Housing Opportunity Made Equal, a nonprofit corporation based in Richmond that was created to enforce the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Pruitt will be providing legal support to public benefit recipients who have been discriminated against in the housing application process.

The newest supervisor on Albemarle’s board, Pruitt made housing affordability a key element of his campaign last year. He has urged the county to create an affordable housing trust fund and has spent years focused on the issue, receiving his master’s in policy management from Georgetown University and writing his thesis on affordable housing in Appalachia. He is currently retraining to become a housing attorney specifically serving Section 8 vouchers.

The Powell Fellowship is only his most recent accolade. Last summer, he earned the Squire Patton Boggs Public Policy Fellowship and he’s currently a fellow in the UVa Program in Law and Public Service.

The $55,000 award will pay Pruitt’s bills so he can pursue his nonprofit legal work.

“Nonprofits normally can’t afford to pay an attorney who’s just starting out. You’re not bringing enough skills for it to make sense for their very limited budgets,” Pruitt told The Daily Progress. “So almost everyone who works in the civil legal field and nonprofits get some kind of fellowship.”

Pruitt represents the Scottsville District in the county south of Charlottesville and was one of three supervisors to attend an event Monday night advocating for Albemarle to create an affordable housing trust fund.

“Albemarle needs to do more to fight our housing crisis. It’s a big part of my personal work,” he told the crowd.

“The Powell Fellowship is the biggest one that UVa has for people who are going to work in direct services for the poor," he said after the event. "So it’s a nice title, but it’s basically my salary for the next two years."


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