The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEVAL
PIERRE N. LEVAL, U.S.D.J.
This class action is brought by rejected applicants for public housing in New York City. Plaintiffs challenge the validity of the defendant New York City Housing Authority's procedures for rejecting applicants, claiming the procedures do not comply with the statutory notice and hearing requirements of the United States Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(c)(3), or with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs seek damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. The plaintiff class consists of applicants for public housing whose applications were rejected under the current Authority procedures. The Authority contends that the current procedures are both statutorily and constitutionally appropriate.
The parties stipulated to a trial on a submitted record, including all papers submitted on cross-motions for summary judgment, of the issue of the validity of the current procedures afforded to public housing applicants whose applications are rejected. The issue of the eligibility of particular plaintiffs for public housing is reversed. On the issue submitted, this constitutes the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law.
An individual seeking public housing must submit a written application. If it is apparent from the application that the applicant does not qualify for public housing, a computer generated letter informs the applicant of ineligibility (Plaintiff's Exhibit 6). The bases for an ineligibility determination on the application alone are: excess income or assets; not being a resident within New York City; or being in standard housing currently. The letter informs applicants of the basis of their ineligibility, but no factual basis for the determination is given. The letter explains that rejected applicants may visit the Applications Information Office (AIO) to review their applications and present new information.
Applications that are not initially disqualified are priorities
and processed. As indicated on each application form, if, because of low priority, an application is not processed within two years it is discarded as inactive.
Applicants not summarily rejected are called for an interview with the Eligibility Division to verify factors on the application such as income, residence, family composition, or rent payment history. The interviewer includes the information produced by the interview in the applicant's file on record forms. The interviewer will set down if she considers the applicant ineligible and on what basis. If a supervisor approves the interviewer's finding of ineligibility, the applicant is sent a letter of ineligibility without further investigation.
If further investigation is considered necessary or the applicant is unable to appear for an interview, an investigator will be sent to the applicant's home.
The investigatory will note all observations such as the extent of the applicant's housekeeping and the care and supervision of any children present. The investigator does not discuss her observations with the applicant.
The investigator will also question the building superintendent, landlord and other individuals in the area of the applicant's apartment about the applicant. The investigator will not ask these people about the basis, length, or quality of their relationship to the applicant, or how they obtained the information they provide.
The applicant is not informed that the investigator will speak to other individuals in the building. The investigator will elicit information, such as rent payment history, occurrence of fire, and contradictory or negative information, without asking the applicant's explanation for the incidents. All information the investigator obtains is included in the applicant's file, including uncorroborated and conflicting information. (Plaintiffs' Affidavit in Opposition of Raphale Samuel, P6, pp.2-3). If an applicant is found ineligible after the home visit, an ineligibility letter is sent to the applicant.
Certain applicants are found not to meet the standards for admission to the housing program. Among the bases for this determination are: a fire having occurred in the applicant's apartment; antisocial or criminal behavior by the applicant or a family member; applicant appears unable to care for self or family; abuses drugs or alcohol; poor housekeeper. Applicants found ineligible for such reasons are sent an ineligibility letter that tells them simply, "you do not meet the standards for admission to our housing program" without telling the grounds on which the determination was made or explanation of the factual basis. (Applicants so found not to meet the standards are sent this form of letter without explanation even if their application is rejected in part for other reasons as well.)
Applicants rejected for other reasons are sent a second form of letter that lists five possible reasons for rejection that may be checked: total family income is too great; total family assets are too great; the Authority was unable to verify income; the Authority was unable to verify family composition; or other. If "other" is checked, one of four further bases for ineligibility are filled in: poor rent payment record; Authority unable to verify residence, applicant already living in standard ...