Archive for the ‘HUD’ Category

Is HUD Evicting Poor Tenants Under False Pretext?

January 7, 2008

Suppose the Federal Government was riding roughshod over low income NYC tenants, would the mainstream media report on the matter? January 3, Eastern District Judge Frederic Block wrote,

It is difficult to fathom why…[HUD’s position is that]it can take poor peoples’ homes without telling them why and without affording them a meaningful opportunity to be heard.

Judge Block was setting a January 28 hearing in Linares v. Jackson, filed in February 2006, to determine the rights of tenants whom the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) has evicted for the sole reason that it plans to rehabilitate their homes.

And yet, with the exception of a piece in the New York Sun on January 4 entitled “HUD Suffers Setback in Plan To Sell N.Y. Properties” by Joseph Goldstein, there was no coverage. Nothing, according to Google, in either the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Only Daniel Wise, writing today for the real estate site, GlobeSt.com and for the New York Law Journal, who revealed that the hearing will determine

“a meaningful opportunity” to show that HUD’s “substantial rehabilitation determination” is not “arbitrarily being employed as a pretext to evict a tenant from a perfectly decent home in order to sell it to a private developer.”

Block also wrote,

It is beyond cavil without telling them why and without affording them a meaningful opportunity to be heard.

HUD takes the position that you cannot not even challenge the deparatment’s finding that your apartments is in disrepair in a court eviction proceeding. HUD is allowed streamlined procedures, it argues, in order to encourage “the upgrading and sale of HUD’s foreclosure stock” to prospective buyers who receive federal or city funding to finance the repair work.

In granting the hearing, Judge Block maintains that the HUD rule appears to ignore the US Supreme Court’s 1985 ruling in Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill (470 U.S. 532), that due process bars the taking of property, including poor people’s homes. He also cited

Block cites Second Circuit precedents as supporting his ruling, the most directly relevant being the 1974 ruling in Caramico v. HUD (509 F.2d 694). Caramico voided a federal rule that required owners who had received federally insured mortgages to clear their buildings–without giving their tenants a chance to object–as a condition of collecting the insurance when they defaulted. The court, said Block,recognized that

[i]t is normally preferable to have the mortgagee vacate a property so that it may be programmed for repair and exposed to the sales market in the shortest practical time [but…] plaintiffs may be able to show that the housing they occupy is fit for continued habitation and that the repairs required in order to make it salable do not require the property to be vacated…Significantly, the [circuit] took note of the consequences of the loss of an abode ‘in deteriorated, low-income neighborhoods where replacement quarters are not readily available at rents the occupants can afford.

Currently, under Rules for Eviction, tenants living in government-owned properties have some rights if they fail to pay rent or are accused of a crime. They must be served with notice of the reasons and then

The landlord shall not evict any tenant except by judicial action pursuant to State or local law and in accordance with the requirements of this subpart.

But, if HUD plans to renovate the property or sell it to a private party who intends to apply for public money to do so, under its Rule 247.10, the department claims that it can start eviction proceedings with no statement of reasons or opportunity to challenge the action.

This subpart shall not apply in any case in which HUD terminates the occupancy of a tenant as a direct result of a determination by HUD to substantially rehabilitate or demolish the project or to dispose of the project to a purchaser who purchases for the purpose of substantial rehabilitation or demolition.

Four tenants, three of whom have been evicted are being represented by South Brooklyn Legal Services.

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