Barbara Huberty was a recipient of Section 8 public housing assistance through the county housing agency. She began receiving Section 8 benefits in July 1997.
One of the Section 8 requirements is the housing agency must “recertify” eligibility each year. This requires a personal interview with the recipient, including completion of necessary paperwork.
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When Huberty’s recertification became due, she was mailed a letter on Jan. 6, 2003, advising of her recertification appointment on Feb. 4 and informing her she could reschedule if that was not convenient. But Huberty failed to appear for the appointment or contact the housing agency.
She was then mailed a second notice by first class and certified mail informing her of a new appointment date. Again she failed to respond. On March 31, 2003, Huberty’s Section 8 benefits were terminated.
Only then did she contact the housing agency, claiming she was caring for a sick friend. Huberty later appeared for a rescheduled interview, but she never provided information needed for recertification. After being granted several time extensions, Huberty’s Section 8 housing subsidy benefits were terminated.
She finally appeared at a housing agency hearing, telling the hearing officer she did not open her mail because it was too depressing. But she did not say she was suffering from depression or any other mental condition, that she was disabled, or needed any special accommodation. The hearing officer refused to grant more time extensions for Huberty to provide recertification documentation.
Upon hearing from Huberty’s legal services attorney, the housing agency refused to reinstate her Section 8 eligibility. Huberty then sued the housing agency, claiming she suffered from depression and adult attention deficit disorder. Her attorney asked for reasonable accommodation of her disability.
If you were the judge would you order the housing agency to make reasonable accommodation for Huberty’s alleged disability and reinstate her Section 8 housing eligibility?
The judge said no!
Huberty asked the housing agency to reconsider her Section 8 termination, the judge began, based on reasonable accommodation for her mental disability. But the housing agency responded the accommodation request is too vague and indefinite to give it any reasonable expectation of Huberty’s timely compliance with information requests, he noted.
“Thus regarded, plaintiff’s requested accommodation was unreasonable because it would work a fundamental alteration of the Section 8 program. Section 8 is a need-based housing assistance program,” the judge explained.
“Plaintiff’s requested accommodation would fundamentally alter this scheme by creating the very real potential that plaintiff would never again be required to recertify her financial need for housing assistance,” he emphasized.
“The requested accommodation has the effect of relieving plaintiff’s burden to prove her financial need for an indefinite period of time. To continue to enforce financial recertification requirements, the agency would have to go out and investigate plaintiff’s financial background to verify her financial eligibility.
“This prospect poses a significant administrative burden for which no provision is made in the detailed scheme created by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development,” the judge noted. Therefore, Huberty’s eligibility for reinstatement of Section 8 federal housing benefits is denied, the judge ruled.
Based on the 2005 U.S. District Court decision in Huberty v. Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, 374 Fed.Supp.3d 768.
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