When Reba Jeffery moved into Coppertree Village four years ago, she said she was greeted by an apartment filled with mold. Even though the building has failed two HUD inspections and the department directed the landlord to bring the building up to par, she says her ceiling still leaks; in May, she was awoken by a bullet that crashed through her window and chipped her lamp. Though shaken, she could not afford to move if her voucher could not move with her.
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“All I’m asking is that the courts would allow me to get my voucher and get out,” Jeffery said. “I’m not asking anything else. I just want to get out and move.” She said she was praying that the Fifth Circuit ruling would pave the way for that to happen.ABOUT THE SERIES Living Hell
If HUD-subsidized tenants complain about living conditions, who is there to listen? A Chronicle investigation found little government oversight and properties tenants say are rife with safety and health hazards.
In the decision, Judges Jacques Wiener and James Dennis said that a HUD rule about relocating families that HUD had interpreted as optional was in fact mandatory. The rule, which relates to housing subsidized by HUD’s project-based vouchers, reads, “If HUD notifies the owner that he/she has failed to maintain a dwelling unit in decent, safe, and sanitary condition, and the owner fails to take corrective action within the time prescribed in the notice… (and) the family wishes to be rehoused in another dwelling unit, HUD shall provide assistance in finding such a unit for the family.”
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan said Wiener and Dennis had misread the regulation, and in doing so, had created “a regime under which Section 8 tenants can, for the first time, sue landlords to force them to issue relocation vouchers… This mistaken view will seriously disrupt the Section 8 program.” Section 8 refers to HUD’s voucher program, which is made possible by section 8 of the United States Housing Act, a law authorizing the government to pay rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income families.
The Fifth Circuit’s ruling means that a suit brought against HUD by residents of Coppertree Village in 2018 — dismissed by district court, which decided it did not have jurisdiction — now has the grounds to be heard. The case will now go back to district court.aside">
“This is great news,” said Kimberly Brown, a lawyer at the nonprofit Lone Star Legal Aid representing the residents. “But this doesn’t mean that (tenants will) have a voucher in hand tomorrow.”
“It’s a very important decision,” agreed John Henneberger, co-director of the advocacy group Texas Housers. “Because it gets at what has long been a major problem with severely distressed HUD-subsidized housing: That tenants end up getting trapped in places that are really not fit to live while HUD tries to get the landlord to fix the place up” — a process that could take years, he said.
Source : https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/housing/article/hud-must-help-tenants-court-rules-texas-16533100.php774