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Robert F. Blechinger v. Sioux Falls Housing and Redevelopment Commission

November 29, 2011

ROBERT F. BLECHINGER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SIOUX FALLS HOUSING AND REDEVELOPMENT COMMISSION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Karen E. Schreier Chief Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff, Robert F. Blechinger, filed a pro se civil lawsuit against defendant, Sioux Falls Housing and Redevelopment Commission (Sioux Falls Housing). Blechinger alleges that Sioux Falls Housing failed to inspect his apartment from 1997 until 2009, resulting in his apartment being unable to meet the Housing Quality Standards established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); that Sioux Falls Housing made false statements to HUD that he smoked in his apartment, and that Sioux Falls Housing has misrepresented its ability to allow him to maintain his housing subsidy while he attempts to clean his apartment and bring it into compliance with the Housing Quality Standards. Blechinger seeks an order compelling Sioux Falls Housing to immediately approve and begin paying his housing subsidy while he attempts to clean his apartment and bring it into compliance with Housing Quality Standards and an order compelling Sioux Falls Housing to pay the arrearages for his housing subsidy, which he estimates total $3,498.

Sioux Falls Housing moves for summary judgment on Blechinger's claims pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Blechinger has not responded to the motion for summary judgment and the time for doing so has passed.

FACTS

Blechinger is a resident of Prospect Heights Apartments, located at 929 South Blaine Avenue, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.*fn1 He has resided there since September of 1997. Sioux Falls Housing is a public body established pursuant to SDCL Ch. 11-7.

When Blechinger first moved into the Prospect Heights Apartments in September of 1997, he was receiving housing assistance under the Rent Supplement Program, pursuant to § 221(d)(3) of the National Housing Act, codified at 12 U.S.C. § 17151(d)(3). At that time, the Rent Supplement Program was administered directly by HUD in conjunction with the owner of the Prospect Heights Apartments. Sioux Falls Housing's only duties under the Rent Supplement Program were to conduct "initial certification of new tenants including verification of income, rent computation and completion of all required HUD forms and documents" and "annual and interim recertifications including all requirements of initial certification."

In August of 2009, Sioux Falls Housing learned that the owner of the Prospect Heights Apartments was opting out of the Rent Supplement Program and was selling the apartments to Kevin Vanpeursem. The sale was finalized in November of 2009. Because of the prior owner's decision to opt out of the Rent Supplement Program, Sioux Falls Housing learned that eligible residents of the Prospect Heights Apartments who had been receiving housing assistance prior to the opt out would continue receiving it in the form of Tenant Protection Vouchers, pursuant to 14 U.S.C. § 1437f.

The Voucher Program is administered by local public housing authorities, like Sioux Falls Housing. See 24 C.F.R. § 982.1. A tenant must satisfy the eligibility requirements set forth in 24 C.F.R. § 982.01 to participate in the Voucher Program. Once the public housing authority has determined that a tenant is eligible to participate in the Voucher Program, it must then determine whether the rental unit selected by the tenant satisfies the Housing Quality Standards set forth in 24 C.F.R. § 982.401. After the public housing authority has determined that the tenant is eligible and that the rental unit satisfies the Housing Quality Standards, it enters into a Housing Assistance Payment contract with the owner of the rental unit, whereby the public housing authority agrees to pay a portion of the eligible tenant's rent directly to the owner. See 24 C.F.R. § 982.305. Until a Housing Assistance Payment contract has been executed, a public housing authority may not make any housing assistance payments to the owner of the rental unit. See 24 C.F.R. § 982.305(c)(2). Nor may a public housing authority enter into a Housing Assistance Payment contract until it has determined that the rental unit satisfies the Housing Quality Standards. See 24 C.F.R. § 982.305(a).

When Sioux Falls Housing learned that it would be administering the voucher program for residents of the Prospect Heights Apartments, it began inspecting the apartments to ensure that they satisfied the Housing Quality Standards. Blechinger's apartment was first inspected in August of 2009. During the inspection, significant clutter and debris, such as paper, food cartons, clothing, and other materials covered Blechinger's stove, obstructed many of his electrical outlets, and made it difficult to access various parts of his apartment, including his bathroom. Following the inspection, Sioux Falls Housing told Blechinger that his apartment did not satisfy Housing Quality Standards and that he would not receive rental assistance under the Voucher Program in his current apartment. Blechinger subsequently began a cleanup effort to bring his apartment into compliance. Sioux Falls Housing has made several follow-up visits to Blechinger's apartment since the August 2009 inspection to provide him with guidance on what needs to be done to satisfy Housing Quality Standards. On two separate occasions, Sioux Falls Housing employees noted cigarette butts inside Blechinger's apartment, leading them to believe that someone was smoking inside the apartment. When asked about the cigarette butts, Blechinger said his girlfriend comes over and smokes. Due to the accumulation of clutter and debris in Blechinger's apartment, Sioux Falls Housing became concerned that someone smoking in Blechinger's apartment presented a serious fire hazard. Sioux Falls Housing communicated this concern to the Sioux Falls Field Office for HUD sometime in late 2009 or early 2010.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive law will properly preclude summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Summary judgment is not appropriate if a dispute about a material fact is genuine, that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

The moving party bears the burden of bringing forward sufficient evidence to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The nonmoving party is entitled to the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts in the record. Vette Co. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 612 F.2d 1076, 1077 (8th Cir. 1980). The nonmoving party may not, however, merely rest upon allegations or denials in its pleadings, but must set forth specific facts by affidavits or otherwise show that a genuine issue exists. Forrest v. Kraft Foods, Inc., 285 F.3d 688, 691 (8th Cir. 2002).

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applies to pro se litigants, despite the liberal construction afforded to their pleadings. Guam v. Minnehaha Cnty. Jail, 821 F.2d 522 (8th Cir. 1987). The district court is not required to "plumb the record in order to find a genuine issue of ...


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