PHA Must Provide Voucher Termination Hearing
Facts: A Section 8 resident sued a local PHA for terminating her voucher. She claimed that the PHA terminated her voucher without cause and without an opportunity for a hearing, in violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The tenant began participating in the voucher program in 2003. At the time, she had two minor children. In 2012, she sought to move to a larger space to accommodate her increased family size as she had two additional children. After a series of unfortunate events, she wasn’t able to find accommodations within the expiration date of her voucher. She submitted two units for approval before her voucher expired. Both passed housing inspections. She moved into one location but was forced to relocate after she learned that the owner wouldn’t sign a lease or HAP contract due to a potential foreclosure. Another location fell through because the owner grew impatient with the Section 8 approval process and decided not to rent the unit to her. And she attempted to submit a third unit for approval, but the owner backed out two days before her voucher was to expire.
The resident went to the PHA on the final date of her last extension to explain what happened and request additional time, but the PHA denied her request and terminated her effective immediately. Shortly thereafter, the PHA rejected her request for a hearing and appeal of its termination decision.
Ruling: An Illinois district court ordered the PHA to provide a due process hearing to consider its determination that terminated her participation in the Housing Choice Voucher Assistance program.
Reasoning: The court found that the resident was unconstitutionally denied a hearing. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a state from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The court disagreed with the PHA’s argument that she wasn’t entitled to a hearing because she lost the property interest she held in her voucher when the voucher expired. It found that the PHA’s refusal to provide a hearing to a participant whose voucher expired allegedly due to circumstances beyond her control and through no fault of her own constitutes a violation of her procedural due process rights.
The PHA’s position may be valid in a situation where an individual receives a voucher, makes no attempt to obtain housing, and fails to submit a property for the housing agency’s approval before the voucher expires. But that wasn’t the situation in this case. The resident’s voucher didn’t passively expire. Rather, the resident claimed that she did everything within her control to remain in the program.
- Pickett v. Housing Authority of Cook County, July 2015