By Lynda Carson
In a Feb. 25, 2011 ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Section 8 project-based tenants are allowed to remain in their rental units at the Park Village Apartments in Oakland at 3761 Park Blvd. Way, as long as they keep paying their current share of rent.
The building owner, Mortimer R. Howard, decided to opt out of the subsidized housing program, and wanted to charge market rate rents in the building after he declined to renew the Section 8 subsidized project-based contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in 2005. Park Village Apartments has been a Section 8 project-based building since it opened in 1978.
In October of 2006, 72 seniors and low-income renters were threatened with eviction at the Park Village Apartments when Howard sent a letter demanding illegal rent increases from the tenants, demanding that the low-income tenants must pay $1,192 a month for rent, or move out.
Tenants in the Section 8 program are charged as much as 30 to 40 percent of their income for rent, and the government pays the rest to the landlord. The subsidized seniors and low-income tenants on average were paying less than $300 per month for rent, before Howard declined to renew the Section 8 project-based contract for the building.
In an effort to save low-income housing at that location, the residents of the Park Village Apartments fought back against Howard in the courts with the assistance of Bay Area Legal Aid, and the National Housing Law Project. Last Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said that the renters have the right to stay in their housing under a 2000 federal law.
Additionally, the Feb. 25 court of appeals ruling said that the current 15 seniors and low-income Section 8 tenants still remaining in the building have a right to remain in their previously subsidized Section 8 rental units in the absence of just cause for eviction, and that tenants with enhanced vouchers cannot be required to pay more than their portion of rent as defined by the Section 8 statute and applicable regulations.
However the ruling further stated that building owners who refuse to accept federal rent subsidies from the government do not have to sign contracts with local housing authorities, such as the Oakland Housing Authority.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org