Federal judge blocks delay of rule to help low-income people obtain housing

Federal judge blocks delay of rule to help low-income people obtain housing
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A federal judge ruled Saturday that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must implement a rule to help low-income families find housing on Jan. 1, 2018.

HUD officials announced in August that they would delay the rule for two years, after it was initially set to go into effect on Jan. 1. But several civil rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, sued the Trump administration over the move in October.

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Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, an Obama appointee, found that HUD did not provide fair reasoning to delay the rule and that the delay was made arbitrarily.

“This case is about the rule of law—whether an agency effectively may suspend a duly promulgated regulation without observing the procedures or identifying relevant factual criteria that the law requires to effect such a change," Howell wrote.

"The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ... without notice and comment or particularized evidentiary findings, has delayed almost entirely by two years implementation of a rule requiring over 200 local Public Housing Authorities ('PHAs') in 24 metropolitan areas, which HUD selected based on fixed, objective criteria, to calculate housing vouchers’ values based on local, rather than metropolitan-wide, prevailing market rents."

The Small Area Fair Market Rent rule would have required public housing officials to calculate subsidies for rent based on formulas for zip codes, instead of ones for entire metropolitan areas.

Under current law, rents for entire metropolitan areas are used to calculate the formulas, which the groups argue means that low-income people who use the subsidies are forced to live in areas with few opportunities.

Howell found that HUD did not have the proper authority to delay the rule, and that the stay was made arbitrarily.

“The Rule … unquestionably is a substantive regulation delay of which ordinarily would require notice and comment. HUD, however, did not delay the Rule’s implementation through notice and comment. Thus, HUD’s action was lawful only if another source of authority empowered HUD to delay the Rule’s implementation without notice or comment,” Howell wrote.

HUD did not immediately return a request for comment.