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Civil Rights – Public Housing – Section 8 Voucher – Portability

Deborah Elkins//May 4, 2010

Civil Rights – Public Housing – Section 8 Voucher – Portability

Deborah Elkins//May 4, 2010

A man who moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia and sought to have his Section 8 voucher for public housing accepted for rental assistance in Virginia does not have a private cause of action to sue for an alleged violation of his rights under the Housing Act of 1937 Portability Provisions by defendant Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority, says a Richmond U.S. District Court.

The provision on which plaintiff relies, 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(r)(1)(A), provides that the recipient of tenant-based assistance iiimayiii receive assistance in another PHA’s jurisdiction, but the statute does not require that assistance be given. In sum, it is rather clear that the statute on which plaintiff relies in count I does not create a private right of action. Nothing in the statutory text supports such an interpretation, nor is there any legislative history bespeaking that Congress intended to create such a right in enacting the portability provision in § 1437(f).

The court also dismisses plaintiff’s remaining claims. His argument for count II, alleging violation of the Brooke Amendment of the Housing Act of 1937, is nothing more than a recasting of the argument that RRHA violated the portability provisions by not absorbing him into its program. Participants do not have an unfettered right under § 1437f to move anywhere within the country and to continue to receive housing assistance payments, or vouchers, which would allow them to contribute only 30 percent of their monthly adjusted income towards rent, regardless of their location.

The court also rejects counts III and V, for alleged due process violations under the state and federal Constitutions. Count IV alleges defendant’s refusal to absorb his voucher, after making an oral statement to him that it intended to do so, constitutes promissory estoppel. This claim fails because this case is not an exception to the general rule that estoppel does not usually operate against the sovereign, particularly not when dealing with payment of federal funds. And it is doubtful that RRHA’s statement of intent constitutes a promise within the jurisprudence of promissory estoppel.

The court grants defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s amended complaint.

Koroma v. Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority (Payne, J.) No. 3:09cv736, April 27, 2010; USDC at Richmond, Va. VLW 010-3-225, 35 pp.

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