The Law Center and a group of non-profit organizations concerned with low-income housing and tenants filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of an appeal to petition for a rehearing and seeks a reversal of a District Court judgment involving housing for tenants with enhanced vouchers. At stake are the rights of low-income people nationwide who hold enhanced vouchers to remain in their homes absent good cause to terminate them.
The District Court’s majority opinion, according to the brief, erroneously conflated three distinct federal housing programs: HUD subsidized mortgage insurance and Section 8 project-based programs; the regular tenant-based voucher program; and the enhanced voucher program. HUD subsidized mortgage insurance and Section 8 programs, enacted in 1974 to support construction of affordable housing, were intended to provide stability for both low-income tenants and neighborhoods by requiring longer-term commitments and good cause eviction protection. The regular Voucher program helps tenants rent units on the private market (generally for properties built without a public subsidy) by providing financial assistance. Enhanced Vouchers were made available to tenants who live in homes funded by project-based assistance, but whose owner terminated his or her participation in the program.
Between 1997 and 1999, Congress passed legislation to ensure that low-income tenants who use vouchers “were protected from eviction absent good cause.” The brief argues that the majority opinion applied a Congressional amendment based on the regular voucher program to an enhanced voucher case, and therefore failed to “support the position that an owner must honor the tenants’ right to remain and continue to renew the lease of an Enhanced Voucher tenant, absent good cause to terminate the tenancy.”
The impact of the Third Circuit District Court’s decision, according to the brief, is that “families will become poorer, and neighborhoods will grow more segregated.” Seeking housing in a private market via vouchers is fraught with tenants facing discrimination based on “race, familial status, disability, and/or other protected class status.” When vouchers aren’t accepted and a tenant is unable to use them, they may have to forgo a subsidy of up to 40 of their income. In addition, having to move may mean finding a different home in a different neighborhood altogether.