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Farley v. Philadelphia Housing Authority

December 17, 1996

LATICIA FARLEY

v.

PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY; FLOYD BAKER; PAMELA DUNBAR; CLAUDE ROSS PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY, FLOYD BAKER, PAMELA DUNBAR AND *fn*CLAUDE ROSS, APPELLANTS



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 95-cv-06616)

BEFORE: SCIRICA and COWEN, Circuit Judges and FEIKENS, District Judge *fn**

COWEN, Circuit Judge.

Argued October 28, 1996

Filed December 17, 1996)

OPINION

Appellants, the Philadelphia Housing Authority and its housing management personnel, Floyd Baker, Pamela Dunbar, and Claude Ross (collectively "the PHA"), appeal the March 8, 1996, order of the district court granting summary judgment to Laticia Farley, a public housing tenant, and denying their cross-motion for summary judgment. The district court held that Farley had a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. Section(s) 1983, and ordered the PHA to fully comply with the arbitration award that directed it to make repairs to Farley's apartment. The PHA contends that the district court did not have jurisdiction to enforce the arbitration award, and erred in holding that Farley had a cognizable federal cause of action under Section(s) 1983 to enforce a public housing grievance award pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section(s) 1437d(k) and 1983. We hold that the parties did not intend to limit enforcement of grievance awards to state court. We also hold that Farley can bring a Section(s) 1983 action to enforce her federal right to implement the grievance procedure provided for in the Housing Act.

I.

A.

The United States Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. Section(s) 1437 et seq., was designed to provide "decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings" within the financial reach of families of low income. 42 U.S.C. Section(s) 1437 (1994). In order to encourage the construction and operation of low-income housing, the Act authorizes the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide grants, low-interest loans and tax exemptions to local public housing agencies known as PHAs. Because they receive federal subsidies, the PHAs are able to charge below-market rent to eligible low-income tenants. In exchange for receiving public funding, the local PHAs are required to operate public housing in compliance with the provisions of the Act.

Section 1437d(k) is the provision at issue in this appeal. As amended in 1983, this section provides that each public housing agency must implement an administrative grievance procedure for the resolution of all tenant disputes concerning adverse PHA action. *fn1 It sets forth the grievance/arbitration procedure that the local PHAs must follow, as well as the rights to which tenants are entitled under that procedure.

The history of Section(s) 1437d(k) and its accompanying regulations dates back to 1971, when HUD issued a series of public housing circulars requiring the PHAs to recognize certain minimum tenant rights and provide an administrative grievance forum for tenant complaints concerning adverse PHA action. See U.S. Dept. Of Housing and Urban Development Circulars RHM 7465.8 and 7465.9. In 1975, HUD codified the requirements from the circulars in the Code of Federal Regulations. The circulars are currently codified in 24 C.F.R. Section(s) 966 (1994). These regulations require the local PHAs to establish and implement grievance procedures that provide tenants with hearings if they dispute any PHA action or inaction concerning lease provisions or local regulations. See 24 C.F.R. Section(s) 966.50, 966.51(a), 966.53(a)(1994). The City of Philadelphia's specific grievance procedure is outlined in the consent decree entered in Brown v. Philadelphia Housing Authority, No. 72-2083 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 15, 1974)("Brown consent decree"); see also Stipulation and Order Supplementing and Clarifying the Stipulation and Order of June 14, 1974, Brown v. Philadelphia Housing Authority, 72-2083 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 24, 1978).

Farley seeks to enforce a specific regulation which states that grievance awards are binding on the local housing authorities and requires them to "take all actions, or refrain from any actions, necessary to carry out the decision [of the hearing officer]." 24 C.F.R. Section(s) 966.57(b) (1994). Her cause of action arises strictly under 1437d(k). Regulation Section(s) 966.57(b) merely interprets that section.

B.

Farley is a tenant of a building in Philadelphia that is managed by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. She filed administrative grievances with PHA, seeking a number of repairs to her rental unit. She also sought an abatement of rent. Farley claimed that the repairs sought were necessary to prevent water from leaking into the basement of her rental unit. These repairs included repair or replacement of the heater, replacement of the windows, repair of the holes in the basement ...


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