Resource Center


Public Housing Demolition and Disposition

Section 18 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (USHA) provides that public housing agencies (PHAs) must seek approval from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to demolish or dispose of public housing. A PHA submitting an application for the demolition of public housing must certify that the development or portion of the development it seeks to demolish is (1) obsolete as to physical condition, location, or other factors, making it unsuitable for housing purposes; and (2) no reasonable program of modification is cost-effective to return the development or portion thereof to useful life.

In the event of a partial demolition, Section 18 requires the PHA to meet these requirements. In addition, it must certify that the demolition will help ensure the viability of the remaining portion of the development. In the event of accidental losses such as fires, storms and other natural disasters, HUD recently sought to authorize PHAs to demolish all or part of a structure without prior HUD approval to the extent needed to maintain the site in a safe condition or to eliminate an attractive nuisance.

A PHA submitting an application for the disposition of public housing must certify that: (1) retention of the property is not in the best interests of the public housing residents because of conditions in the area surrounding the development that adversely affect the health or safety of the residents or the feasible operation of the development, (2) that retention is not in the best interest of the public housing residents because disposition allows the acquisition, development or rehabilitation of other properties that will be more efficiently or effectively operated as low-income housing, or (3) that the PHA has otherwise determined that disposition is appropriate for other reasons as set forth in the statute. In the event of a disposition, the PHA may be required to provide residents an opportunity to purchase the development.

A PHA must also certify that it consulted with the residents and local governmental officials, that the PHA annual plan authorized the action and that the PHA will comply with the relocation provisions of Section 18.

Depending on the circumstances, advocates and tenants have sought to stop or modify a PHA’s plans to demolish or dispose of public housing and/or to condition any HUD approval. When relevant, advocates have argued that a PHA did not meet the statutory requirements of Section 18 and have also raised claims that the proposed demolition or disposition violated civil rights statutes, environmental laws and/or applicable state law.

Prior to a demolition or disposition, PHAs are required to fill out and submit HUD form 52860, Inventory Removal Application, to the HUD Special Application Center (SAC) along with certifications for HUD’s review and approval or disapproval.

There are legislative proposals to revise Section 18. In the meantime, congressional leaders have requested HUD to place a moratorium on all demolitions or dispositions of public housing and the HUD Secretary says that the Department will review applications for demolition or disposition more closely.

Articles

Preserving Safe, High Quality Public Housing Should Be a Priority of Federal Housing Policy

This October 2008 report by Will Fischer and Barbara Sard, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, examines the current state of public housing in the United States and discusses federal policy changes that have greatly improved public housing over the past decade, as well as the deteriorating funding situation that is undermining this progress.

Fifth Circuit Holds Public Housing Demolition Law Unenforceable

This July 2009 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article by Rochelle Broboff, Directing Attorney, of the Herbert Semmel Federal Rights Project, National Senior Citizens Law Center, discusses the impact of the private right of action decision in the Anderson v. Jackson case.

Frank and Waters Renew Their Call for Moratorium on Public Housing Demolition and Disposition

This July 2009 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article summarizes the correspondence between Congressman Barney Frank and Congresswoman Maxine Waters and HUD regarding their request that Secretary Donovan impose a one-year moratorium on the approval of applications for the demolition or disposition of public housing units.

Public Housing Demolition in Galveston, Texas Is Subject to One-for-One Replacement

This June 2009 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article describes the Galveston case and HUD’s new policy regarding “demolition to alleviate the damage caused by accidental losses such as fires, storms, and other natural disasters.”

Arroyo Vista Tenants Continue Challenge to Proposed Public Housing Disposition

This January 2009 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article discusses the HUD conclusion that tenants’ objections to the city’s environmental finding of no significant impact (FONSI) had merit.

Settlements Advance Integration for Displaced Public Housing Tenants

This November-December 2008 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article describes agreements reached by fair housing advocates in Massachusetts and Illinois.

Tenants Can Sue for Violation of Public Housing Demolition Law

This June 2008 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article provides background on Arroyo Vista Tenants Association v. City of Dublin.

Public Housing Residents Gain One-For-One Replacement

This February 2008 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article describes the Jones case, the settlement and the change in HUD policy regarding partial demolitions.

Public Housing Tenants in New Orleans Get Mixed Ruling from Federal Court

This March 2007 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article provides an overview of the Anderson v. Jackson district court opinion.

Public Housing Receiverships and the Kansas City Experience

This February 2007 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article discusses the process and prospects for a receivership remedy in the context of public housing, and recounts the public housing receivership experience in Kansas City, Missouri.

HUD Issues Final Rule for the Demolition or Disposition of Public Housing

This November-December 2006 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article details the key statutory changes implemented by the new regulations, their applicability, and related issues.

District Court Concludes that HUD May Be Liable for Baltimore Segregation

This February 2006 NHLP Housing Law Bulletin article provides a review of Thompson v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD Denies Request to Demolish 180 Units of Public Housing in Woonsocket, RI

This January 2011 Housing Law Bulletin Article summarizes HUD's letter declining to approve a request by Woonsocket, RI Housing Authority (WHA) to demolish family public housing units, the influence of comments submitted on behalf of residents and community groups and WHA's response.

NHLP Testifies on Public Housing One-forOne Replacement

This June 2010 Housing Law Bulletin outlines the testimony of the NHLP before the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity on a discussion draft of a bill entitled "The Public Housing One-for-One Replacement and Tenant Protection Act."

Public Housing Disposition Case Settled with Substantial Tenant Protections

This March 2010 Housing Law Bulletin discusses the settlement of Arroyo Vista Tenants Association v. City of Dublin.

Cases

Jones v. U. S. Dept. of Hous. Urb. Dev., No. 07 C 50142 (D. Il. _____)

Tenants challenged HUD’s approval of a partial demolition of the development on several grounds, asserting that the PHA did not demonstrate that the units were obsolete and that there was no reasonable cost effect plan to return the development to useful life and that the PHA failed to consult with residents or the PHA’s board. Tenants also challenged the adequacy of the relocation plan, which did not ensure comparable replacement dwellings for displaced tenants.

In the matter of Oleander Homes and Palm Terrace Apartments, (HUD 2009)

In the matter of Oleander Homes and Palm Terrace Apartments, (HUD 2009)

Anderson v. Jackson, C.A. No. 06-3298 (E.D. La. _____ 2006).

Tenants from four large public housing developments in New Orleans brought suit in federal court against the local PHA and HUD, alleging that their failure to repair and reopen the developments from which the tenants were displaced due to hurricane Katrina violated the Fair Housing Act, alleging disparate treatment, disparate impact and a breach of the duty to affirmatively further fair housing; the United States Housing Act of 1937, alleging constructive demolition and actual demolition; the Equal Protection Clause, alleging discriminatory intent and various state laws, including constructive eviction and breach of contract. Tenants and advocates also filed letters with HUD for the purpose of influencing HUD to disapprove the application.

Arroyo Vista Tenant Association v. City of Dublin, No. C 07-05794 (N.D. Ca., July 28, 2008)

Tenants filed suit in state court challenging the PHA’s disposition and demolition plan for failure to notify residents of the proposal in violation of federal disposition and demolition requirements and failure to provide residents with relocation assistance in violation state relocation assistance laws. After removal, the federal court ruled that tenants had a private right of action to enforce their relocation rights and ordered the PHA to notify the tenants of their rights.

Tenants and advocates have also filed letters with HUD for the purpose of influencing HUD so that the application for disposition would not be approved or any approval would be conditioned.

Materials

Congressional letters and responses seeking moratorium on HUD approval of demolition and disposition applications

Comments submitted by Advocates to PHAs regarding proposals for demolition or disposition of public housing

NHLP, Testimony to US House of Representatives Comittee on Financial Services

NHLP, Testimony to United States House of Representatives Committe on Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity Hearing on Legislative Proposals to Preserve Public Housing, April 28, 2010.

Statutes and Regulations

Links