Attorney General: Timothy Coppage, Department of Economic and Community Development, 2002-002 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

January 24, 2002

Timothy Coppage
Deputy Commissioner
Department of Economic
  and Community Development
505 Hudson Street
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Deputy Commissioner Coppage:

This is in response to your letter dated August 27, 2001, in which you request our opinion on whether the Department of Economic and Community Development ("DECD") is a "public housing agency" within the purview of the United States Housing Act of 1937 ("Housing Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 1437 et seq., and, therefore, is an entity able to participate as a public housing agency in programs authorized under the Housing Act. In our opinion, DECD is such a public housing agency.

The Housing Act was enacted "to assist the several States and their political subdivisions to remedy the unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions and acute shortage of decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings for families of lower income." 42 U.S.C. § 1437. See, Thorpe v. Housing Authority of City of Durham, 393 U.S. 268, 89 S.Ct. 518, 21 L.Ed.2d 474 (1969): "One of the specific purposes of the federal housing acts is to provide ‘a decent home and suitable living environment for every American family’ that lacks the financial means of providing such a home without government aid.” 393 U.S., at 281, 89 S.Ct., at 525-26. In furtherance of this goal, Congress has authorized the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) to provide financial and other assistance to public housing agencies. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. §§ 1437b, 1437c.

The term "public housing agency" is defined in the Housing Act to "mean[] any State, county, municipality, or other government entity or public body (or agency or instrumentality thereof) which is authorized to engage in or assist in the development or operation of public housing." 42 U.S.C. § 1437a(b)(6). See also, 24 CFR § 5.100.

Under Connecticut law, DECD is "the lead agency for all matters relating to housing"; Conn. Gen. Stat. § 8-37r(a); and is "successor to the functions, powers and duties of the Department of Economic Development relating to housing, community development, redevelopment and urban renewal as set forth in chapters 128, 129, 130, 135 and 136 in accordance with the provisions of sections 4-38d, 4-38e and 4-9." Conn. Gen. Stat. § 8-37r(b). Among other things, DECD is charged with the responsibility, together with the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, of preparing and updating a long-range state housing plan; Conn. Gen. Stat. § 8-38t; and of monitoring the progress of the public and private sector toward meeting housing needs in the State of Connecticut. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 8-37s. The Commissioner of DECD has been given the responsibility for establishing a program of financial assistance to local housing authorities, including any major repair or replacement of housing in projects developed with state financial assistance. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 8-44a.

In short, a review of the various housing provisions in the General Statutes of Connecticut discloses that DECD is a public agency with statewide jurisdiction "authorized to engage in or assist in the development or operation of public housing" and, as such, is a "public housing agency" as that term is defined and used in the federal Housing Act.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Cornelius F. Tuohy
Assistant Attorney General

RB/CFT/rwg


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