Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles was in violation of state and federal law when the city cut housing subsidies for the poor 11 years ago without giving beneficiaries proper notice, a federal appeals court panel ruled Monday, reversing a lower-court decision.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena determined that the Housing Authority, which administers Section 8 funds, should have given recipients a year’s notice on cutbacks.

Attempts to reach a Housing Authority representative for comment were not immediately unsuccessful.

The cuts impacted almost 22,500 beneficiaries, many of them elderly, disabled or families with young children, according to the ruling. As a result, those beneficiaries had to pay an average of $104 more a month for their rent.

“For those on a fixed income or those living paycheck to paycheck, any unexpected decrease in the subsidy can result in homelessness,” Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt wrote for the court. “For this reason, the program contains procedural protections designed to ensure that beneficiaries have at least a full year to plan for certain changes that may decrease the beneficiary’s subsidy and increase the rent that they will have to pay.”

The appellate panel found that instead of providing adequate notice of the cuts in 2004, the Housing Authority held outreach meetings and sent recipients an incomprehensible flier, which contained no telephone number for a recipient to call with questions, the court said.

A lower court judge ruled for the city in the 2007 class action suit brought by the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness.

“In sum, the district court erred by granting summary judgment to the Housing Authority,” Reinhardt said. “There is no genuine dispute of fact as to whether the Housing Authority failed to provide meaningful information to Section 8 beneficiaries about the change to the payment standard and the effect of that change upon the beneficiaries and their property interests.”

The judge continued, “That failure violated both the requirements of the Voucher Program regulations and the requirements of procedural due process. It also resulted in a violation of two state statutes which require public entities to take reasonable efforts to comply with the mandatory duties established by federal regulations.”

In its decision, the circuit court reversed the previous ruling and remanded the case to a federal court judge with instructions to enter early judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on the merits of the federal and state law claims at issue.

— Wire reports 

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