On December 10, 2008, the Lawyers’ Committee, the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) and the law firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP, the Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center and several individuals in Mississippi State Conference NAACP v. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, CV-08-2140.
The action was brought under the Administrative Procedure Act and alleged that HUD violated 42 U.S.C. § 5301 when the agency approved the State of Mississippi’s plan to divert $570 million in Disaster Recovery Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from programs addressing the housing needs of low- and moderate-income survivors of Hurricane Katrina to the financing of a major expansion of the commercial Port of Gulfport. The complaint details the failure of the State of Mississippi to use the CDBG funds to replenish much-needed affordable rental housing stock in three coastal counties directly affected by Hurricane Katrina. It further documents HUD’s consistent approval of multiple waivers sought by the State from the requirement that 50 percent of the CDBG funds benefit low and moderate-income people. The Plaintiffs claim that HUD, when it approved the State’s request to reprogram housing relief funds to the Port of Gulfport, did not fulfill its responsibilities to review the proposal for compliance with the requirements of disaster relief bill and with the State’s duty to certify how the proposal would affirmatively further fair housing, as required by the Fair Housing Act.
HUD filed a motion to dismiss the suit on March 27, 2009, and plaintiffs submitted their opposition to the motion on May 29, 2009. The filing opposed the defendant’s claim that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the case by establishing that both the individual plaintiffs and the organizational plaintiffs sustained injuries as a result of HUD’s decision and that those injuries could be redressed by a favorable decision in the case.
On January 8, 2010, Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted HUD’s motion to dismiss, finding that plaintiffs did not have standing because they could not establish that they had suffered an injury as a result of the decision to divert the disaster recovery CDBG funds. Plaintiffs appealed the case.
While the appeal was pending, HUD convened a meeting on April 16 with representatives of plaintiffs, including the Lawyers’ Committee, MCJ and the Mintz law firm, and representatives of of the State of Mississippi to discuss reallocation of the federal disaster funding in a way that would adequately meet the unmet affordable housing needs of low income and minority households in Mississippi. After several months of data gathering and negotiations, agreement was reached between HUD, the State and the plaintiffs that resulted in a new Action Plan being submitted to HUD by the State on October 29, 2010, which proposed to reallocate over $132 million in disaster CDBG funds and other funds to programs designed to address the unmet housing needs of low income homeowners and renters. On November 8, 2010, HUD approved the plan and the parties entered into an MOU settling the case. On November 9, 2010, a joint motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed in the Court of Appeals. Since then, plaintiffs have been monitoring implementation of the State’s October 29, 2010 Action Plan.