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HESS v. WARD

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


July 9, 1980

Mildred J. HESS
v.
James WARD, Frances E. Regener, Joseph F. Somber, Richard Rittenbaugh, Herbert Chambers, Paul A. Rie, Mrs. Michael L. Strong, Mrs. Shane H. King, Frank Armstead, Arthur M. Bagley

The opinion of the court was delivered by: LUONGO

OPINION

Plaintiff, a resident of Chester County eligible for participation in the public housing program of the county, brought this class action suit to challenge the system of priorities through which vacancies in public housing are filled. She seeks injunctive and declaratory relief. On August 3, 1977, I certified a class including all residents of Chester County who reside outside of one of those municipalities in the county which has public housing, who have applied or will in the future apply for public housing, and who have been or will be denied admission to public housing solely because they do not reside within a municipality with public housing. Defendants are various officials of the Housing Authority of the County of Chester (HACC), and the mayors of several municipalities in Chester County.

  In filling vacancies in public housing, HAAC employs a priority system granting preference to applicants who have resided not less than six months in a municipality in which there is a public housing project, in the following order of priority: elderly families; displaced families; families of servicemen and veterans; families in unsafe, overcrowded, or unsanitary dwellings; and families who were bona fide residents of the municipality up to a time not more than six months before their application for housing, but were compelled to move for lack of affordable housing. After all eligible residents of the municipalities where the housing is located are placed in accordance with the priority system, consideration is given to applicants like Hess and members of the plaintiff class who live in Chester County, but have never resided in one of the municipalities with public housing, or have resided therein for less than six months. Hess made application for housing on February 3, 1975, and has not yet been placed. She contends that the preference for those who have resided for longer than six months in the municipality in which the housing is located violates applicable federal regulations and denies equal protection of the laws. She attacks both aspects: (1) the requirement that the applicant reside within the municipality, and (2) the requirement that the residency be of six months or longer duration.

 In lieu of a trial, the parties submitted the matter on stipulated facts and filed briefs in support of their respective positions. The stipulated facts (with selected exhibits) are:

 STIPULATION OF FACTS

 1. The Housing Authority of the County of Chester (hereinafter HACC) was established pursuant to the United States Housing Act of 1937, 84 Stat. 1779, 42 U.S.C. Section 1401 et seq., as amended by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, P.L. No. 93-383, 42 U.S.C. Section 1437 et seq. and regulations promulgated thereunder and pursuant to the Housing Authorities Law, Act of May 28, 1937 P.L. 955, 35 P.S. ยง 1541 et seq. by a resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of the County of Chester, Pennsylvania dated June 5, 1963. A copy of this resolution, marked Exhibit "A" is attached and incorporated into these stipulated facts.

 2. By the above-mentioned resolution the following persons were appointed as members of the Board of HACC: Peter J. Short, Jr., Frank W. Armstead, Paul Rie, Michael Strong, Shane H. King. Appointed as Executive Director of HACC was James Ward.

 The current members of the Board of HACC are Arthur M. Bagley, Chairman, Paul A. Rie, Ann L. Strong, Daniel E. Grow, Jr., and David J. Williams. The current acting Executive Director of HACC is Vernon Cothran, who administers the daily operations of HACC.

 3. HACC maintains traditional public housing in the following Chester County municipalities: West Chester: 150 units Coatesville: 200 units South Coatesville: 30 units Phoenixville: 75 units

19800709

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