Long v. D.C. Hous. Auth.

Citation166 F.Supp.3d 16
Decision Date29 February 2016
Docket NumberCivil Action No.: 15-00605 (RC)
Parties William A. Long, Plaintiff, v. District of Columbia Housing Authority, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

166 F.Supp.3d 16

William A. Long, Plaintiff,
District of Columbia Housing Authority, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No.: 15-00605 (RC)

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed February 29, 2016

166 F.Supp.3d 19

William Michael Ryan Barrett, White & Case LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Alex Chintella, Douglas & Boykin, PLLC, Washington, DC, for Defendants.


Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge


Plaintiff William A. Long brought this action against Defendants the District of Columbia Housing Authority (“DCHA”) and Adrianne Todman in her official capacity as DCHA's Executive Director under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1437 et seq. , as amended by the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998, 42 U.S.C. §§ 13661 et seq. , the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and District of Columbia Municipal Regulations challenging DCHA's termination of his housing assistance payments as part of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a federally-funded program that DCHA administers.

The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment based on the undisputed facts of the case. See Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16; Pl.'s Cross-Mot. Summ. J. & Opp'n Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J.”), ECF No. 18. For the reasons provided below, the Court will enter judgment in favor of Defendants as to Counts

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II, III, and IV of Mr. Long's Complaint and deny the parties' motions as to Counts I and V without prejudice in order to permit the parties to more fully brief the underlying legal issues.


This case involves the relationships between a federal statute, its implementing regulations, and local District of Columbia regulations. It is therefore necessary for the Court to first provide an overview of the relevant statutory and regulatory framework before turning to the factual background and procedural history of this case.

A. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (the “Program,” also commonly referred to as “Section 8” or the “HCVP”) was created by Congress with “the purpose of aiding low-income families in obtaining a decent place to live and of promoting economically mixed housing” by providing low-income families with assistance payments, or subsidies, to enable them to rent units in the private rental housing market. 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(a). The program is financed by the federal government, regulated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), and administered by state and local public housing agencies (“PHAs”). See 42 U.S.C. § 1437f ; Simmons v. Drew , 716 F.2d 1160, 1161 (7th Cir.1983). Through the Program, HUD distributes federal funds to PHAs, and the PHAs, in turn, distribute the funds by contracting with property owners to subsidize a portion of a Program participant's rent. See 42 U.S.C. § 1437f ; Simmons , 716 F.2d at 1161. DCHA, an agency of the District of Columbia government, is the PHA responsible for administering the Program in the District of Columbia. See D.C. Code § 6–202 ; 14 D.C.M.R. § 4900.

1. Statutory Provisions Concerning Admission and Termination

In order to participate in the Program and receive assistance, a family must first apply to a PHA for admission to the Program and be admitted. In 1998, Congress enacted the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act (the “QHWRA”), which amended the Housing Act to, among other things, authorize and, in some cases, require, PHAs and owners to deny admission to certain categories of applicants and terminate certain participants' assistance. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 13661 –13664.

Specifically, and most relevant in this case, § 13663, titled “Ineligibility of dangerous sex offenders for admission to public housing,” provides that owners of federally assisted housing must “prohibit admission to such housing for any household that includes any individual who is subject to a lifetime registration requirement under a State sex offender registration program.” 42 U.S.C. § 13663(a). Section 13663 also, among other things, instructs PHAs to conduct criminal history background checks to determine whether an applicant is subject to a lifetime registration requirement, authorizes PHAs to conduct background checks with respect to applicants and tenants at the request of owners, and provides applicants with an opportunity to dispute the factual determination of their status as a lifetime registrant prior to any adverse action. See 42 U.S.C. § 13663(b) –(d).

The statute provides other mandatory and discretionary grounds for denying admission to applicants. Specifically, § 13661, a companion provision, addresses illegal drug users, alcohol abusers, and other criminals. See 42 U.S.C. § 13661. It provides, for example, that any tenant who has been evicted from federally assisted housing for drug-related criminal activity “shall not be eligible for federally assisted

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housing” for the three years following the tenant's eviction, unless the tenant successfully completes a rehabilitation program. 42 U.S.C. § 13661(a). It also requires the establishment of standards to prohibit admission to anyone determined to be “illegally using a controlled substance” or whose “illegal use (or pattern of illegal use) of a controlled substance, or abuse (or pattern of abuse) of alcohol, may interfere with the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents.” 42 U.S.C. § 13661(b).

Importantly, §§ 13661 and 13663 concern grounds for denying admission to the Program; these sections of the statute do not, at least explicitly, concern a PHA's termination of a participant in the Program who has already been admitted and has been receiving assistance. Termination is addressed separately in the section that falls between them. See 42 U.S.C. § 13662. Section 13662, titled “Termination of tenancy and assistance for illegal drug users and alcohol abusers in federally assisted housing” authorizes PHAs and owners to terminate the tenancy or assistance of a participant family on the same grounds that § 13661(b) provides for denying admission: if a member is determined to be “illegally using a controlled substance” or whose “illegal use (or pattern of illegal use) of a controlled substance, or whose abuse (or pattern of abuse) of alcohol” interferes with the right to peaceful enjoyment by other residents. 42 U.S.C. § 13662(a). It also provides that, in determining whether to terminate tenancy or assistance, a PHA or owner may consider whether the household member has been rehabilitated. See 42 U.S.C. § 13662(b). Neither § 13662 nor any other provision of the statute specifically addresses termination of assistance due to a participant's status as a lifetime registrant.

The statute also instructs HUD to require PHAs to establish an administrative grievance procedure that provides a process for taking adverse actions against tenants in which tenants will, among other things, “be advised of the specific grounds” of the proposed adverse action, have an opportunity to contest the adverse action before an impartial party, and “receive a written decision by the public housing agency on the proposed action.” 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(k).

2. HUD Regulations

HUD's relevant implementing regulations are codified at 24 C.F.R. pt. 982. Under these regulations, PHAs are required to adopt a written administrative plan “that establishes local policies for administration of the program in accordance with HUD requirements” and “states PHA policy on matters for which the PHA has discretion to establish local policies.” 24 C.F.R. § 982.54(a). PHAs are required to “revise the administrative plan if needed to comply with HUD requirements.” 24 C.F.R. § 982.54(b). PHAs are also required to “comply with HUD regulations and other HUD requirements for the program” and the regulation states that “HUD requirements are issued by HUD headquarters, as regulations, Federal Register notices or other binding program directives.” 24 C.F.R. § 982.52(a). The regulation does not define the phrase “other binding program directives.”

On May 24, 2001, HUD promulgated regulations that implemented the QHWRA, codified, in relevant part, at 24 C.F.R. §§ 982.551 –.555, which became effective on June 25, 2001. See 66 Fed. Reg. 28,776 (May 24, 2001). The regulations provide certain obligations for Program participants (§ 982.551 ), specify mandatory and discretionary grounds for PHAs to deny admission to applicants or terminate assistance to participants (§ 982.552), and specify other mandatory and discretionary grounds for PHAs to deny admission and

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terminate assistance to criminals and alcohol abusers (§ 982.553). Like the statute it implements, the HUD regulations only address lifetime registrants with respect to denying admission to applicants. Subsection 982.553(a), titled...

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