BAKER v. PROPERTY INVESTORS OF CONNECTICUT

3:02cv1839(AHN).

338 F.Supp.2d 321 (2004) | Cited 1 time | D. Connecticut | September 21, 2004

RULING ON DEFENDANT UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF STANDING

Plaintiffs Shaheerah Baker and ten other residents of New EraCourt, a low-income housing development project in Bridgeport,Connecticut, have brought suit against the U.S. Department ofHousing and Urban Development and then-Secretary Mel Martinez(collectively, "HUD"), the Housing Authority of the City ofBridgeport ("HACB"), Francisco & Associates, Clara Stevens,Property Investors of Connecticut ("PIC"), T&D Properties of Bridgeport Corp. ("T&D"), and WilfredoSantos.1 Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint("Complaint") alleges several causes of action brought underdifferent theories of federal statutory and constitutional lawand under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (Conn. Gen.Stat. § 42-110a et seq.). Pending before the court is HUD'sMotion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for Lack of Standing[doc. #25]. For the reasons discussed below, the motion isGRANTED.

BACKGROUND

I. Parties

Plaintiffs are current and former tenants of New Era Court. PICis a general partnership between Clara Stevens and Francisco andAssociates. PIC owned New Era Court until May 8, 2003, when T&Dbecame the new owner; Wilfredo Santos is the president of T&DProperties.2 HUD administers the federal housing subsidyprogram made available to low-income families on a nationalscale. HACB is the local public housing agency in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which administers HUD funds toeligible low-income families.

II. Statutory Framework for HUD's Section 8 Housing SubsidyProgram

Two key federal statutes form the statutory framework throughwhich HUD provides housing subsidies to low-income families: theUnited States Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. § 1437f ("HousingAct"); and the Multifamily Assisted Housing Reform andAffordability Act of 1997, Pub.L. No. 105-65, 111 Stat. 1344(codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1437f) ("MAHRA"). Section 8 of theHousing Act ("section 8") "aid[s] low-income families inobtaining a decent place to live and . . . promot[es]economically mixed housing," 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(a), by providingfederal subsidies to private building owners who are willing torent to low-income families. These owners enter into HousingAssistance Payment ("HAP") contracts with HUD, which in turndetermines the maximum monthly rate they may charge as rent.

A low-income tenant who is eligible to receive section 8assistance pays thirty percent of her adjusted gross incometoward rent; HUD pays the balance to the property owner, andpublic housing agencies such as HACB typically serve as an intermediary between HUD and the section 8 tenants. See42 U.S.C. § 1437f(c)(3), 42 U.S.C. § 1437a(a)(1).

Section 8 housing assistance comes in "project-based" or"tenant-based" form. A project-based subsidy is dedicated to aspecific apartment building, so that any tenant residing there iseligible to receive section 8 assistance. See42 U.S.C. § 1437f(d). In contrast, a tenant-based subsidy comes in the formof a HUD-funded housing voucher, which the lowincome recipientuses to pay rent at any privately owned apartment building thataccepts such vouchers. See 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(o).

Plaintiffs' Complaint implicates several key aspects of thesection 8 program. For example, if a private building ownerintends to terminate a project-based HAP contract with HUD, he isrequired to provide one-year written notice to HUD and thebuilding's low-income tenants. If the owner fails to provide therequired notice, he may not evict a tenant or increase thetenant's rent until a full year has elapsed from the notice date.See 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(c)(8)(B). Furthermore, should the ownerchoose not to renew the section 8 contract, HUD "will providetenant-based rental assistance to all eligible residents enablingthem to choose the place they wish to rent, which is likely toinclude the dwelling unit in which they currently reside." See42 U.S.C. § 1437f(c)(8)(A). These tenant-based subsidies, generally referredto as "enhanced vouchers," cover any increase in rent charged bythe owner after the HAP contract expires in order to "keep[] thetenants' portion of the rent stable at the pre-expiration rate."People to End Homelessness, Inc. v. Develco Singles,339 F.3d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 2003). Thus, under this statutory framework,even if an owner terminates its HAP contract with HUD, aneligible tenant would continue to pay 30% of her adjusted grossincome toward her housing costs under the section 8 program.

FACTS

For purposes of considering HUD's Motion to Dismiss for Lack ofStanding, the court accepts as true the factual allegationscontained in the Complaint. The allegations germane toPlaintiffs' claims against HUD are discussed below.

In August 1995, PIC and HUD executed a five-year, project-basedHAP contract that provided project-based housing subsidies to NewEra Court. The expiration date of the contract was July 31, 2000.Pursuant to this contract, PIC was to rent all units of New EraCourt to low-income tenants, charge each tenant no more than 30%of her adjusted gross income as rent, and comply with HUD regulations. HUD set rentsfor New Era Court at $735.00 for a two-bedroom unit and $788.00for a three-bedroom unit.

In early 2000, HUD was considering whether to renew its HAPcontract with PIC. To that end, HUD compared the rents charged atNew Era Court to those charged at similar area properties. Basedon this comparison, HUD determined that New Era Court's rentswere too high and that its project-based HAP contract should berenewed at lower rent levels: $600.00 instead of $735.00 for atwo-bedroom unit; and $650.00 instead of $788.00 for athree-bedroom unit. PIC unsuccessfully appealed thisdetermination to HUD. Consequently, on August 17, 2001, PIC gavenotice to HUD that it would "opt out" of the section 8 programwhen its current HAP contract expired on July 31, 2002. PIC alsogave its tenants written notice that "[t]he Section 8 contract[which] pays the government's share of your apartment at New EraCourt expires on August 17, 2002." Complaint at ¶ 58. PIC,however, also indicated that it could still decide to renew itsHAP contract.

On or about November 19, 2001, HUD and PIC executed ashort-term, project-based renewal contract to expire on July 31,2002. This expiration date was 17 days before August 17, 2002,the date on which PIC's HAP contract could legally terminate based onPIC's notice date of August 17, 2001.

In mid-June 2002, New Era Court tenants attended a meeting atHACB where they were told that PIC's project-based section 8contract would expire on July 31, 2002, and "that the tenants'eligibility for the section 8 [enhanced vouchers] would need tobe determined." Complaint at ¶ 64. Although HACB still had notprovided Plaintiffs with tenant-based vouchers at this time, HACBtold them that they had to decide whether they wanted to remainat New Era Court or relocate to a different property. On June 27,2002, PIC and HACB held another meeting for New Era Courtresidents, including Plaintiffs, where they were told that theirproject-based subsidies would be converted to tenant-basedsubsidies as of August 1, 2002, in light of PIC's termination ofits HAP contract.

According to Plaintiffs, HUD's internal policy guidelines statethat "the funding process [for enhanced vouchers] must begin atleast 120 days prior to the target date of the Housing conversionaction (and at least 180 days in cases where families will haveto move to receive voucher assistance)." Complaint at ¶ 62.Nevertheless, even though HUD knew ahead of time that New EraCourt residents would need tenant-based vouchers after PIC's HAP contract expired in August2002, it did not start preparing these vouchers until June 2002.At this late date, HUD also notified HACB that HACB would be incharge of administering the enhanced vouchers to New Era Courttenants. Plaintiffs allege that HUD's delay in providing thevouchers hindered their efforts to find alternative housingbecause they did not have the vouchers in hand when conductingtheir housing search. Plaintiffs further complain that HACBmiscalculated the dollar amounts of the vouchers.

On or about July 3, 2002, PIC gave tenants written notice thatrents would increase to full market rates as of August 1, 2002,but failed to specify the actual dollar amount. On or about July5, 2002, PIC and HACB demanded that the tenants, even though theystill had not been given their tenant-based vouchers, to electwithin ten days whether they wanted to stay at New Era Court orrelocate to a different property. Plaintiffs assert that, as aresult, they had a "grossly inadequate time frame in which toinform themselves about the housing market before risking theloss of the right to remain at New Era Court using the enhanced[tenant-based] voucher." Complaint at ¶ 68. PIC also advisedtenants in July 2002 that if they wanted to remain at New Era Court, they would have to payan increased security deposit equal to one month's rent.

On July 17, 2002, HACB provided tenants with tenant-basedvouchers that had an expiration date of November 13, 2002. On orabout July 23, 2002, Defendants orally agreed to enter intothree-month leases with tenants, including Plaintiffs, to"provide the plaintiffs with a full 120 days in which to decidewhether to exercise their right to remain at New Era Court.Complaint at ¶ 72. Plaintiffs could terminate these short-termleases upon request. Id. With these enhanced vouchers in hand,Plaintiffs now had additional time to make their housingdecisions while still living at New Era Court.3

On August 1, 2002, HUD permitted PIC to terminate its HAPproject-based contract, sixteen days before the correcttermination date of August 17, 2002. Between July 29, 2002, andAugust 30, 2002, HACB and Clara Stevens signed a new contractpurporting to be effective from August 15, 2002, to July 31,2003. Although PIC had threatened to evict Plaintiffs from New Era Court, there is no allegation in theComplaint that they were ever rendered homeless.

STANDARD

HUD moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant toFed.R.Civ. P. Rule 12(b)(1) under the theory Plaintiffs lack standingto sue HUD. See Fed.R. Civ. P. Rule 12(b)(1) (providing fordismissal due to "lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter").Under established Second Circuit law, Plaintiffs' Complaint mustallege three essential elements: "(1) that the plaintiff . . .suffered an injury in fact . . .; (2) that there [is] a causalconnection between the injury and the conduct complained of. . .; and (3) that it [is] likely that the injury complained ofwould be redressed by a favorable decision." St. Pierre v.Dyer, 208 F.3d 394, 401 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal citations andquotation marks omitted); see also Steel Co. v. Citizens fora Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 103-04 (citations omitted)("injury in fact, causation, and redressability constitute[] thecore of Article III's case-or-controversy requirement").

An "injury in fact" is a suffered harm that is "concrete" and"actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical." LosAngeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101-102 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted). The element of "causation" requires afairly traceable connection between the plaintiff's injury andthe defendant's objectionable conduct. See Simon v. EasternKy. Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 41-42 (1976).Third, the injury alleged must be redressable — that is, theremust be a likelihood that the requested relief will redress thealleged injury. Id. at 45-46. The party invoking federaljurisdiction bears the burden of establishing the existence ofthese essential elements. See FW/PBS, Inc. v. Dallas,493 U.S. 215, 231 (1990).

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiffs' Claims

In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege in broad terms that HUD'sactions violated their rights under the Housing Act, MAHRA, theAdministrative Procedures Act at 28 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., andthe Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs complainthat HUD's acts and omissions "directly and proximately caused. . . [them] permanent loss of eligibility for all federalhousing subsidy programs, lost wages, squandered savings, debtand other out-of-pocket costs and financial burdens" as well as"severe anxiety, emotional distress, and humiliation associatedwith the constant threat of homelessness, and severance of their ties to [the] community."Complaint at ¶¶ 116-17.

Reduced to their essence, however, these claims of injury hingeon two key factual allegations. First, Plaintiffs assert that HUDimpermissibly allowed PIC to terminate its HAP contract on August1, 2002, sixteen days before the correct expiration date.Plaintiffs assert that they should have been allowed to remain atNew Era Court under the terms of the existing HAP contract untilAugust 17, 2002 (i.e., 16 days longer). Second, Plaintiffs assertthat HUD, in conjunction with HACB, needlessly delayed providingthem with their tenant-based vouchers in a timely fashion, whichadversely affected their efforts to find new housing.4

II. Analysis

After a careful review of the 34-page Complaint, the courtfinds that Plaintiffs do not have standing to sue HUD because theComplaint does not allege that they suffered a legally cognizable injury caused by HUD. Stated differently,Plaintiffs' allegations fail to satisfy the Article III standingrequirements of injury in fact and causation. Although the courtrecognizes that HUD's alleged acts and omissions may have causedPlaintiffs needless worry and inconvenience, the Complaint isbereft of any allegation that Plaintiffs were ever renderedhomeless or suffered a concrete harm due to HUD's conduct.Accordingly, the court grants HUD's Motion to Dismiss for Lack ofStanding.

A. HUD's Allegedly Premature Termination of PIC's HAPContract

From the outset, the court finds that the factual allegationsin the Complaint, when read in conjunction with the statutory lawunderlying HUD's section 8 subsidy program, undermine any claimthat Plaintiffs suffered a cognizable injury caused by HUD. Asdiscussed supra, the section 8 program provides that if aneligible tenant contributes 30% of her adjusted gross income toher housing costs, HUD shall subsidize the difference between theactual rent and the participant's contribution. In its motion,HUD does not disagree that it may have allowed PIC terminate itsHAP contract sixteen days too early. Plaintiffs, however, fail toallege that they suffered a tangible harm flowing from this premature termination. More specifically, Plaintiffs have notalleged that they were evicted from their New Era Courtapartments, that HUD withheld housing subsidies from them, orthat they suffered some other concrete harm. Much to thecontrary, as the Complaint implicitly recognizes, Plaintiffs'benefits and obligations under the section 8 program remainedconstant throughout the pendency of the events giving rise tothis litigation. Even after HUD prematurely terminated PIC's HAPcontract by sixteen days on August 1, 2002, no Plaintiff was everdenied a HUD housing subsidy or removed from her apartment. Muchto the contrary, Plaintiffs were allowed to remain at New EraCourt as long as they continued to pay their respective portionof the rent contribution, which remained 30% of her adjustedgross income.5 If Plaintiffs met this requirement, HUDcontinued to provide the housing subsidy. Thus, in the absence ofan allegation that HUD denied or diminished Plaintiffs' rightsunder the section 8 program in any tangible or substantial way,the court finds that the Complaint fails to allege injury infact.

B. Alleged Delay in Providing Tenant-Based Vouchers Similarly, the court is unpersuaded that HUD's alleged role inthe delayed provision of the tenant-based vouchers in July 2002shows that HUD caused Plaintiffs a legally cognizable injury.Plaintiffs contend that this delay left them anxious, unpreparedto seek new housing, and caused them significant inconvenience.However, as with the allegations surrounding HUD's prematuretermination of PIC's HAP contract, the Complaint is bereft of anyallegation that Plaintiffs were evicted or suffered a concreteinjury as a result. The court rejects Plaintiffs' contention thatanxiety and inconvenience constitute injury in fact for purposesof Article III standing in the context of a case involvingsection 8 housing subsidies.6 Furthermore, the courtnotes that the Complaint alleges that Defendants, including HUD,ultimately gave Plaintiffs additional time to make their housingdecisions while residing at New Era Court: "On or about July 23[2002], through negotiation by counsel for the plaintiffs, the[D]efendants orally agreed to enter into three-month leases whichwere terminable upon request by the [P]lantiffs, to provide the [P]laintiffs with a full 120-days in which to decidewhether to exercise their right to remain at New Era Court."Complaint at ¶ 72. Due to this agreement, Plaintiffs were notevicted from their apartments during this time period and couldterminate their leases at any time.

C. Lack of Supporting Case Authority

Finally, the court notes the absence of case law that supportsPlaintiffs' position that its Complaint sufficiently allegesconstitutional standing. The most analogous case cited byPlaintiffs, Campbell v. Minneapolis Public Housing Authority,168 F.3d 1069 (8th Cir. 1999), shares little factualsimilarity, let alone analytical similarity, to Plaintiffs'claims here and is easily distinguishable. First, unlike thePlaintiffs who lived continuously at New Era Court, Campbell wasa homeless man who applied with the Minneapolis Public HousingAuthority ("MPHA") to live in public housing. Id. at 1071.Second, HUD was not a defendant in Campbell, and plaintiff'srights there under the section 8 program were not in question.Rather, the defendant in Campbell was MPHA, the local housingauthority, which allegedly injured plaintiff by denying himpublic housing based on his responses on a MPHA form thatdisclosed his drug treatment history and required the release ofrelated drug records. Id. at 1072, 1074. Thus, Campbell involved a clearly tangible injury that wascaused by the defendant's actions; those elements, however, areabsent in the instant case.

In sum, the court finds that Plaintiffs lack standing to bringsuit against HUD because the Complaint does not allege injury infact or causation for purposes of Article III standing.

CONCLUSION

For the reasons discussed above, HUD's Motion to DismissPlaintiffs' Complaint for Lack of Standing [doc. #25] is GRANTED.

SO ORDERED.

1. On August 2, 2004, the court approved Plaintiffs' voluntarywithdrawal of its action with respect to Defendants HACB, PIC,Francisco & Associates, and Clara Stevens [doc. #77 and #78].

2. The court granted Plaintiffs' motion to join T&D and Santosas defendants on September 22, 2003 [doc. #66].

3. It is unclear from the Complaint when these three-monthwould begin and end. Presumably, a three-month lease beginning onAugust 1, 2002, would end on November 1, 2002. At any rate, itappears that Defendants agreed to provide these short-term leasesbecause HUD and HACB had not provided them with their vouchers ina timely fashion.

4. The Complaint also asserts that HUD injured Plaintiffs byallowing PIC to charge a security deposit equal to one's monthrent effective July 2002. The court finds as a matter of law thatthis allegation fails to state a legally cognizable injury causedby HUD. Plaintiffs have suffered no injury in this respectbecause HUD regulations permit private owners with HAP contractsto charge security deposits. See 24 C.F.R. § 982.313. Moreover,it is the property owner, not HUD, that charges the securitydeposit.

5. To the extent that Plaintiffs contend they were entitled toremain in the same building at the same rent indefinitely, such aclaim is without statutory support in the Housing Act or MAHRA.

6. The court is not unsympathetic to the Plaintiffs' situationand recognizes that their allegations, if proven, would revealthat HUD and Defendants managed the section 8 program at New EraCourt in a sub-standard fashion. Nevertheless, the court haslocated no authority suggesting that anxiety and inconvenience inthis context constitute injury in fact for purposes of ArticleIII standing.

RULING ON DEFENDANT UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF STANDING

Plaintiffs Shaheerah Baker and ten other residents of New EraCourt, a low-income housing development project in Bridgeport,Connecticut, have brought suit against the U.S. Department ofHousing and Urban Development and then-Secretary Mel Martinez(collectively, "HUD"), the Housing Authority of the City ofBridgeport ("HACB"), Francisco & Associates, Clara Stevens,Property Investors of Connecticut ("PIC"), T&D Properties of Bridgeport Corp. ("T&D"), and WilfredoSantos.1 Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint("Complaint") alleges several causes of action brought underdifferent theories of federal statutory and constitutional lawand under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (Conn. Gen.Stat. § 42-110a et seq.). Pending before the court is HUD'sMotion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for Lack of Standing[doc. #25]. For the reasons discussed below, the motion isGRANTED.

BACKGROUND

I. Parties

Plaintiffs are current and former tenants of New Era Court. PICis a general partnership between Clara Stevens and Francisco andAssociates. PIC owned New Era Court until May 8, 2003, when T&Dbecame the new owner; Wilfredo Santos is the president of T&DProperties.2 HUD administers the federal housing subsidyprogram made available to low-income families on a nationalscale. HACB is the local public housing agency in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which administers HUD funds toeligible low-income families.

II. Statutory Framework for HUD's Section 8 Housing SubsidyProgram

Two key federal statutes form the statutory framework throughwhich HUD provides housing subsidies to low-income families: theUnited States Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. § 1437f ("HousingAct"); and the Multifamily Assisted Housing Reform andAffordability Act of 1997, Pub.L. No. 105-65, 111 Stat. 1344(codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1437f) ("MAHRA"). Section 8 of theHousing Act ("section 8") "aid[s] low-income families inobtaining a decent place to live and . . . promot[es]economically mixed housing," 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(a), by providingfederal subsidies to private building owners who are willing torent to low-income families. These owners enter into HousingAssistance Payment ("HAP") contracts with HUD, which in turndetermines the maximum monthly rate they may charge as rent.

A low-income tenant who is eligible to receive section 8assistance pays thirty percent of her adjusted gross incometoward rent; HUD pays the balance to the property owner, andpublic housing agencies such as HACB typically serve as an intermediary between HUD and the section 8 tenants. See42 U.S.C. § 1437f(c)(3), 42 U.S.C. § 1437a(a)(1).

Section 8 housing assistance comes in "project-based" or"tenant-based" form. A project-based subsidy is dedicated to aspecific apartment building, so that any tenant residing there iseligible to receive section 8 assistance. See42 U.S.C. § 1437f(d). In contrast, a tenant-based subsidy comes in the formof a HUD-funded housing voucher, which the lowincome recipientuses to pay rent at any privately owned apartment building thataccepts such vouchers. See 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(o).

Plaintiffs' Complaint implicates several key aspects of thesection 8 program. For example, if a private building ownerintends to terminate a project-based HAP contract with HUD, he isrequired to provide one-year written notice to HUD and thebuilding's low-income tenants. If the owner fails to provide therequired notice, he may not evict a tenant or increase thetenant's rent until a full year has elapsed from the notice date.See 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(c)(8)(B). Furthermore, should the ownerchoose not to renew the section 8 contract, HUD "will providetenant-based rental assistance to all eligible residents enablingthem to choose the place they wish to rent, which is likely toinclude the dwelling unit in which they currently reside." See42 U.S.C. § 1437f(c)(8)(A). These tenant-based subsidies, generally referredto as "enhanced vouchers," cover any increase in rent charged bythe owner after the HAP contract expires in order to "keep[] thetenants' portion of the rent stable at the pre-expiration rate."People to End Homelessness, Inc. v. Develco Singles,339 F.3d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 2003). Thus, under this statutory framework,even if an owner terminates its HAP contract with HUD, aneligible tenant would continue to pay 30% of her adjusted grossincome toward her housing costs under the section 8 program.

FACTS

For purposes of considering HUD's Motion to Dismiss for Lack ofStanding, the court accepts as true the factual allegationscontained in the Complaint. The allegations germane toPlaintiffs' claims against HUD are discussed below.

In August 1995, PIC and HUD executed a five-year, project-basedHAP contract that provided project-based housing subsidies to NewEra Court. The expiration date of the contract was July 31, 2000.Pursuant to this contract, PIC was to rent all units of New EraCourt to low-income tenants, charge each tenant no more than 30%of her adjusted gross income as rent, and comply with HUD regulations. HUD set rentsfor New Era Court at $735.00 for a two-bedroom unit and $788.00for a three-bedroom unit.

In early 2000, HUD was considering whether to renew its HAPcontract with PIC. To that end, HUD compared the rents charged atNew Era Court to those charged at similar area properties. Basedon this comparison, HUD determined that New Era Court's rentswere too high and that its project-based HAP contract should berenewed at lower rent levels: $600.00 instead of $735.00 for atwo-bedroom unit; and $650.00 instead of $788.00 for athree-bedroom unit. PIC unsuccessfully appealed thisdetermination to HUD. Consequently, on August 17, 2001, PIC gavenotice to HUD that it would "opt out" of the section 8 programwhen its current HAP contract expired on July 31, 2002. PIC alsogave its tenants written notice that "[t]he Section 8 contract[which] pays the government's share of your apartment at New EraCourt expires on August 17, 2002." Complaint at ¶ 58. PIC,however, also indicated that it could still decide to renew itsHAP contract.

On or about November 19, 2001, HUD and PIC executed ashort-term, project-based renewal contract to expire on July 31,2002. This expiration date was 17 days before August 17, 2002,the date on which PIC's HAP contract could legally terminate based onPIC's notice date of August 17, 2001.

In mid-June 2002, New Era Court tenants attended a meeting atHACB where they were told that PIC's project-based section 8contract would expire on July 31, 2002, and "that the tenants'eligibility for the section 8 [enhanced vouchers] would need tobe determined." Complaint at ¶ 64. Although HACB still had notprovided Plaintiffs with tenant-based vouchers at this time, HACBtold them that they had to decide whether they wanted to remainat New Era Court or relocate to a different property. On June 27,2002, PIC and HACB held another meeting for New Era Courtresidents, including Plaintiffs, where they were told that theirproject-based subsidies would be converted to tenant-basedsubsidies as of August 1, 2002, in light of PIC's termination ofits HAP contract.

According to Plaintiffs, HUD's internal policy guidelines statethat "the funding process [for enhanced vouchers] must begin atleast 120 days prior to the target date of the Housing conversionaction (and at least 180 days in cases where families will haveto move to receive voucher assistance)." Complaint at ¶ 62.Nevertheless, even though HUD knew ahead of time that New EraCourt residents would need tenant-based vouchers after PIC's HAP contract expired in August2002, it did not start preparing these vouchers until June 2002.At this late date, HUD also notified HACB that HACB would be incharge of administering the enhanced vouchers to New Era Courttenants. Plaintiffs allege that HUD's delay in providing thevouchers hindered their efforts to find alternative housingbecause they did not have the vouchers in hand when conductingtheir housing search. Plaintiffs further complain that HACBmiscalculated the dollar amounts of the vouchers.

On or about July 3, 2002, PIC gave tenants written notice thatrents would increase to full market rates as of August 1, 2002,but failed to specify the actual dollar amount. On or about July5, 2002, PIC and HACB demanded that the tenants, even though theystill had not been given their tenant-based vouchers, to electwithin ten days whether they wanted to stay at New Era Court orrelocate to a different property. Plaintiffs assert that, as aresult, they had a "grossly inadequate time frame in which toinform themselves about the housing market before risking theloss of the right to remain at New Era Court using the enhanced[tenant-based] voucher." Complaint at ¶ 68. PIC also advisedtenants in July 2002 that if they wanted to remain at New Era Court, they would have to payan increased security deposit equal to one month's rent.

On July 17, 2002, HACB provided tenants with tenant-basedvouchers that had an expiration date of November 13, 2002. On orabout July 23, 2002, Defendants orally agreed to enter intothree-month leases with tenants, including Plaintiffs, to"provide the plaintiffs with a full 120 days in which to decidewhether to exercise their right to remain at New Era Court.Complaint at ¶ 72. Plaintiffs could terminate these short-termleases upon request. Id. With these enhanced vouchers in hand,Plaintiffs now had additional time to make their housingdecisions while still living at New Era Court.3

On August 1, 2002, HUD permitted PIC to terminate its HAPproject-based contract, sixteen days before the correcttermination date of August 17, 2002. Between July 29, 2002, andAugust 30, 2002, HACB and Clara Stevens signed a new contractpurporting to be effective from August 15, 2002, to July 31,2003. Although PIC had threatened to evict Plaintiffs from New Era Court, there is no allegation in theComplaint that they were ever rendered homeless.

STANDARD

HUD moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant toFed.R.Civ. P. Rule 12(b)(1) under the theory Plaintiffs lack standingto sue HUD. See Fed.R. Civ. P. Rule 12(b)(1) (providing fordismissal due to "lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter").Under established Second Circuit law, Plaintiffs' Complaint mustallege three essential elements: "(1) that the plaintiff . . .suffered an injury in fact . . .; (2) that there [is] a causalconnection between the injury and the conduct complained of. . .; and (3) that it [is] likely that the injury complained ofwould be redressed by a favorable decision." St. Pierre v.Dyer, 208 F.3d 394, 401 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal citations andquotation marks omitted); see also Steel Co. v. Citizens fora Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 103-04 (citations omitted)("injury in fact, causation, and redressability constitute[] thecore of Article III's case-or-controversy requirement").

An "injury in fact" is a suffered harm that is "concrete" and"actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical." LosAngeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101-102 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted). The element of "causation" requires afairly traceable connection between the plaintiff's injury andthe defendant's objectionable conduct. See Simon v. EasternKy. Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 41-42 (1976).Third, the injury alleged must be redressable — that is, theremust be a likelihood that the requested relief will redress thealleged injury. Id. at 45-46. The party invoking federaljurisdiction bears the burden of establishing the existence ofthese essential elements. See FW/PBS, Inc. v. Dallas,493 U.S. 215, 231 (1990).

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiffs' Claims

In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege in broad terms that HUD'sactions violated their rights under the Housing Act, MAHRA, theAdministrative Procedures Act at 28 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., andthe Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs complainthat HUD's acts and omissions "directly and proximately caused. . . [them] permanent loss of eligibility for all federalhousing subsidy programs, lost wages, squandered savings, debtand other out-of-pocket costs and financial burdens" as well as"severe anxiety, emotional distress, and humiliation associatedwith the constant threat of homelessness, and severance of their ties to [the] community."Complaint at ¶¶ 116-17.

Reduced to their essence, however, these claims of injury hingeon two key factual allegations. First, Plaintiffs assert that HUDimpermissibly allowed PIC to terminate its HAP contract on August1, 2002, sixteen days before the correct expiration date.Plaintiffs assert that they should have been allowed to remain atNew Era Court under the terms of the existing HAP contract untilAugust 17, 2002 (i.e., 16 days longer). Second, Plaintiffs assertthat HUD, in conjunction with HACB, needlessly delayed providingthem with their tenant-based vouchers in a timely fashion, whichadversely affected their efforts to find new housing.4

II. Analysis

After a careful review of the 34-page Complaint, the courtfinds that Plaintiffs do not have standing to sue HUD because theComplaint does not allege that they suffered a legally cognizable injury caused by HUD. Stated differently,Plaintiffs' allegations fail to satisfy the Article III standingrequirements of injury in fact and causation. Although the courtrecognizes that HUD's alleged acts and omissions may have causedPlaintiffs needless worry and inconvenience, the Complaint isbereft of any allegation that Plaintiffs were ever renderedhomeless or suffered a concrete harm due to HUD's conduct.Accordingly, the court grants HUD's Motion to Dismiss for Lack ofStanding.

A. HUD's Allegedly Premature Termination of PIC's HAPContract

From the outset, the court finds that the factual allegationsin the Complaint, when read in conjunction with the statutory lawunderlying HUD's section 8 subsidy program, undermine any claimthat Plaintiffs suffered a cognizable injury caused by HUD. Asdiscussed supra, the section 8 program provides that if aneligible tenant contributes 30% of her adjusted gross income toher housing costs, HUD shall subsidize the difference between theactual rent and the participant's contribution. In its motion,HUD does not disagree that it may have allowed PIC terminate itsHAP contract sixteen days too early. Plaintiffs, however, fail toallege that they suffered a tangible harm flowing from this premature termination. More specifically, Plaintiffs have notalleged that they were evicted from their New Era Courtapartments, that HUD withheld housing subsidies from them, orthat they suffered some other concrete harm. Much to thecontrary, as the Complaint implicitly recognizes, Plaintiffs'benefits and obligations under the section 8 program remainedconstant throughout the pendency of the events giving rise tothis litigation. Even after HUD prematurely terminated PIC's HAPcontract by sixteen days on August 1, 2002, no Plaintiff was everdenied a HUD housing subsidy or removed from her apartment. Muchto the contrary, Plaintiffs were allowed to remain at New EraCourt as long as they continued to pay their respective portionof the rent contribution, which remained 30% of her adjustedgross income.5 If Plaintiffs met this requirement, HUDcontinued to provide the housing subsidy. Thus, in the absence ofan allegation that HUD denied or diminished Plaintiffs' rightsunder the section 8 program in any tangible or substantial way,the court finds that the Complaint fails to allege injury infact.

B. Alleged Delay in Providing Tenant-Based Vouchers Similarly, the court is unpersuaded that HUD's alleged role inthe delayed provision of the tenant-based vouchers in July 2002shows that HUD caused Plaintiffs a legally cognizable injury.Plaintiffs contend that this delay left them anxious, unpreparedto seek new housing, and caused them significant inconvenience.However, as with the allegations surrounding HUD's prematuretermination of PIC's HAP contract, the Complaint is bereft of anyallegation that Plaintiffs were evicted or suffered a concreteinjury as a result. The court rejects Plaintiffs' contention thatanxiety and inconvenience constitute injury in fact for purposesof Article III standing in the context of a case involvingsection 8 housing subsidies.6 Furthermore, the courtnotes that the Complaint alleges that Defendants, including HUD,ultimately gave Plaintiffs additional time to make their housingdecisions while residing at New Era Court: "On or about July 23[2002], through negotiation by counsel for the plaintiffs, the[D]efendants orally agreed to enter into three-month leases whichwere terminable upon request by the [P]lantiffs, to provide the [P]laintiffs with a full 120-days in which to decidewhether to exercise their right to remain at New Era Court."Complaint at ¶ 72. Due to this agreement, Plaintiffs were notevicted from their apartments during this time period and couldterminate their leases at any time.

C. Lack of Supporting Case Authority

Finally, the court notes the absence of case law that supportsPlaintiffs' position that its Complaint sufficiently allegesconstitutional standing. The most analogous case cited byPlaintiffs, Campbell v. Minneapolis Public Housing Authority,168 F.3d 1069 (8th Cir. 1999), shares little factualsimilarity, let alone analytical similarity, to Plaintiffs'claims here and is easily distinguishable. First, unlike thePlaintiffs who lived continuously at New Era Court, Campbell wasa homeless man who applied with the Minneapolis Public HousingAuthority ("MPHA") to live in public housing. Id. at 1071.Second, HUD was not a defendant in Campbell, and plaintiff'srights there under the section 8 program were not in question.Rather, the defendant in Campbell was MPHA, the local housingauthority, which allegedly injured plaintiff by denying himpublic housing based on his responses on a MPHA form thatdisclosed his drug treatment history and required the release ofrelated drug records. Id. at 1072, 1074. Thus, Campbell involved a clearly tangible injury that wascaused by the defendant's actions; those elements, however, areabsent in the instant case.

In sum, the court finds that Plaintiffs lack standing to bringsuit against HUD because the Complaint does not allege injury infact or causation for purposes of Article III standing.

CONCLUSION

For the reasons discussed above, HUD's Motion to DismissPlaintiffs' Complaint for Lack of Standing [doc. #25] is GRANTED.

SO ORDERED.

1. On August 2, 2004, the court approved Plaintiffs' voluntarywithdrawal of its action with respect to Defendants HACB, PIC,Francisco & Associates, and Clara Stevens [doc. #77 and #78].

2. The court granted Plaintiffs' motion to join T&D and Santosas defendants on September 22, 2003 [doc. #66].

3. It is unclear from the Complaint when these three-monthwould begin and end. Presumably, a three-month lease beginning onAugust 1, 2002, would end on November 1, 2002. At any rate, itappears that Defendants agreed to provide these short-term leasesbecause HUD and HACB had not provided them with their vouchers ina timely fashion.

4. The Complaint also asserts that HUD injured Plaintiffs byallowing PIC to charge a security deposit equal to one's monthrent effective July 2002. The court finds as a matter of law thatthis allegation fails to state a legally cognizable injury causedby HUD. Plaintiffs have suffered no injury in this respectbecause HUD regulations permit private owners with HAP contractsto charge security deposits. See 24 C.F.R. § 982.313. Moreover,it is the property owner, not HUD, that charges the securitydeposit.

5. To the extent that Plaintiffs contend they were entitled toremain in the same building at the same rent indefinitely, such aclaim is without statutory support in the Housing Act or MAHRA.

6. The court is not unsympathetic to the Plaintiffs' situationand recognizes that their allegations, if proven, would revealthat HUD and Defendants managed the section 8 program at New EraCourt in a sub-standard fashion. Nevertheless, the court haslocated no authority suggesting that anxiety and inconvenience inthis context constitute injury in fact for purposes of ArticleIII standing.

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