Attorney General: Honorable Henry Sherer, Department of Housing, 1991-009 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

March 8, 1991

Honorable Henry Sherer
Department of Housing
1179 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103-1089

Dear Commissioner Sherer:

By letter dated February 20, 1990, your predecessor in office, Commissioner Papandrea, requested our opinion on whether the Department of Housing (DOH) is a public housing agency within the purview of the United States Housing Act of 1937.1 The request was prompted by letters from William H. Hernandez, Jr., Manager of the Hartford Office of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"). In our opinion, the DOH does meet the federal definition of a public housing agency under the Housing Act.

The term "public housing agency" is defined in 42 U.S.C> 1437a(b)(6) as "any State, county, municipality or other governmental entity or public body (or agency or instrumentality thereof) which is authorized to engage in or assist in the development of operation of lower income housing." According to 42 U.S.C. 1437a(b)(1), "'lower income housing' means decent, safe and sanitary dwellings assisted under this chapter." The chapter in question, Eight, states throughout that HUD may enter into contracts with a public housing agency, which in turn can use the Federal financial assistance to assist in development of decent, sage and sanitary dwellings in accordance with the provisions of the chapter.

A public housing agency is also defined in 24 C.F.R. 882.102 as "[a}ny State, county, municipality or other governmental entity or public body (or agency or instrumentality thereof) which is authorized to engage in or assist in the development or operation of housing for low-income Families." Part 882.102 does not define low-income families, but does indicate that lower income family is defined in Part 813 of the chapter:

A Family whose Annual Income does not exceed 80 percent of the median income for the area, as determined by HUD with adjustments for smaller and larger families. HUD may establish income limits higher or lower than 80 percent of the median income for the area on the basis of its finding that such variations are necessary because of the prevailing levels of construction costs or unusually high or low family incomes.

24 C.F.R. 813.102. (See also, 42 U.S.C> 1437a(b)(2)).

Even a cursory review of the relevant Connecticut housing statutes demonstrates that DOH administers programs for low-income families as defined above. THe Low Income Housing Program itself falls within this category. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 8-119bb, et seq. (initial occupancy income limit 50 percent of area median as defined by HUD, with continued occupancy income limit 80 percent of area median as defined by HUD. Reg. Conn. Agencies, 8-119jj-7). There are many other programs administered by DOH which "assist in the development or operation of low income housing." See, for instance, Conn. Gen. Stat. 8-44a (State, acting through Commissioner of DOH, may provide financial assistance for housing projects); 8-45 (Commissioner's oversight regarding low rental housing projects); 8-49 (Commissioner of DOH to cooperate with local housing authorities regarding constructing or operating a housing project); 4-57 ( Commissioner's authority to secure federal assistance regarding housing projects); 8-68a (State, acting through the Commissioner may provide assistance to establish a community center as part of a housing project); 8-68e (State, acting through the Commissioner, may provide financial assistance to rehabilitate uninhabitable dwelling units); 8-119t (Commissioner of DOH shall encourage the development of independent living opportunities of low income handicapped persons by making grants-in-aid); Ch. 130, Part IV (State, acting by the Commissioner of DOH, authorized to provide financial and other assistance regarding redevelopment and urban renewal, which can include the development of low income housing).

The Commissioner of DOH also has a role in assisting the development, inter alia, of low income housing under the State's Community Development Program (Conn. Gen. Stat. 8-169a to 8-169m), and the Urban Homesteading Program (Conn. Gen. Stat. 8-169o to 8-169w).

Thus, the Connecticut Department of Housing qualifies as a public housing agency within the definition of the Housing Act.

I trust this addresses your question. If we can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact us.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Paul K. Pernerewski
Assistant Attorney General

PKP:cd


1 The program in question is commonlyl known as the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program ("Section8") and is found in 42 U.S.C. 1437, et. seq., specifically 42 U.S.C.A. 1437f, and is governed by 24 C.F.R. 882. The program allows the Secretary of Housing ans Urgban Development to enter into a contract with a public housing agency, pursuant to which the public housing agency may enter into contracts with owners of existing residential, rental buildings to make rental assistance payments on behalf of elilgible tenants.


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