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Rogers v. Housing Authority of Prince George's County

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 8, 2015

GEORGIA ROGERS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

This Memorandum Opinion addresses the Motion to Dismiss, or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 22, that Defendants Housing Authority of Prince George's County and Executive Director Eric C. Brown filed; Plaintiffs Georgia Rogers and Shantay Ross's Opposition, ECF No. 27; and Defendants' Reply, ECF No. 30. A hearing is unnecessary in this case. See Loc. R. 105.6. Because I find that the Plaintiffs have standing to bring their claims, have pleaded plausible claims under the Constitution and Maryland Declaration of Rights, and that they substantially complied with the notice requirements of the Local Government Tort Claims Act, the, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

The essence of this case is plainly stated. Plaintiffs receive federal subsidies under the Housing Choice Voucher Program ("Voucher Program") for their home rental expenses from Defendant Housing Authority of Prince George's County ("Housing Authority"), which administers the Voucher Program in Prince George's County, Maryland. Compl. ¶¶ 1 & 7, ECF No. 1. Defendant Eric C. Brown is the Executive Director of the Housing Authority and "is responsible for overseeing [the Housing Authority's] policies and operations." Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs allege that changes in the Housing Authority's policies that decreased the value of Plaintiffs' voucher subsidies violated their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.

I. BACKGROUND AND RELATED LAW

A. The Voucher Program and Related Law

The Section 8 Voucher Program ("Voucher Program") is governed by 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(o) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's ("HUD") implementing regulations, 24 C.F.R. part 982. Under the Voucher Program, local public housing agencies ("Housing Agencies") select tenants and landlords to participate in the Voucher Program and determine the amount of subsidy, called a Housing Assistance Payment ("Assistance Payment"), for which each tenant is eligible. 24 C.F.R. § 982.635.

The Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act ("Quality Act"), Pub. L. No. 105-276, 112 Stat. 2461, requires Housing Agencies to submit to HUD both 5-year and annual plans governing the provision of federal subsidies to eligible tenants, see 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(o). The annual plan must include "[a] statement of the polices of the public housing agency governing rents charged for public housing dwelling units and rental contributions of families assisted under section 1437(o) of this title." 42 U.S.C. § 1437c-1(d)(4); see also 24 C.F.R. § 903.4.

The Quality Act permits Housing Agencies to modify their annual plans but provides specific restrictions and procedures for "a significant amendment or modification [of the annual plan]." 42 U.S.C. § 1437c-1(g)(1). A significant amendment or modification must be adopted at "a duly called meeting of board of directors (or similar governing body) of the public housing agency that is open to the public" and may not be implemented "until notification of the amendment or modification is provided to [HUD]." Id.; see also 24 C.F.R. § 903.21. Additionally, Housing Agencies must consult with the resident advisory board described in 42 U.S.C. § 1437c-1(e) and satisfy notice and public hearing requirements in 42 U.S.C. § 1437c-1(f). 42 U.S.C. § 1437c-1(g)(2).

In addition to an annual plan, Housing Agencies must adopt an administrative plan "that establishes local policies for administration of the [voucher program] in accordance with HUD requirements." 24 C.F.R. § 982.54(a). HUD regulations govern the administrative plan. Id. § 982.54(b). The administrative plan "is a supporting document to the [annual plan]... and must be available for public review." Id.

B. Housing Authority of Prince George's County and its Agency Plans

The Housing Authority is a Housing Agency subject to the requirements of the Quality Act. On April 17, 2012, the Housing Authority published its 5-Year and 2013 annual plan (collectively, the "2013 Agency Plan"). Compl. ¶ 27. The 2013 Agency Plan established that "Section 8 payment standards were at 100% of Fair Market Rents" and that "[t]he Minimum Rent for Section 8 is $0."[1] Id. ¶¶ 27 & 28 (citing the 2013 Agency Plan at 21). The 2014 annual plan ("2014 Agency Plan"), dated April 15, 2013, also set payment standards at 100% of Fair Market Rents and the minimum rent at $0. 2014 Agency Plan, Brown Aff. Ex. C., Defs.' Mem. Ex. 1, ECF No. 22-3, at 32.[2] As required by HUD regulations, the 2013 Agency Plan defines "Significant Amendment and Substantial Deviations/Modifications to the Plan" as including "[c]hanges to rent or admissions policies or organization of the waiting list." Id. ¶¶ 31 & 32 (quoting 2013 Agency Plan at 58). The Housing Authority's 2013 Agency Plan requires that the Housing Authority follow specific procedures consistent with HUD regulations "before making any significant amendments or substantial deviation/modification to the Agency Plan." Id. ¶ 33. According to the Housing Authority's 2013 Agency Plan, it must

(1) Consult with the Resident Advisory Board.
(2) Ensure consistency with the Consolidated Plan of the jurisdiction(s).
(3) Provide for a review of the amendment/modifications by the public during a 10-day public review period.
(4) Adopt the amendment or modification at a duly called meeting of [the Housing Authority's] Board of ...

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