Cisneros v. Alpine Ridge Group, 508 U.S. 10 (1993)

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10

OCTOBER TERM, 1992

Syllabus

CISNEROS, SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, et al. v. ALPINE RIDGE GROUP et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 92-551. Argued March 30, 1993—Decided May 3, 1993

The so-called Section 8 housing program under the United States Housing

Act of 1937 (Housing Act) authorizes private landlords who rent to low-income tenants to receive "assistance payments" from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in an amount calculated to make up the difference between the tenants' rent payments and a "contract rent" agreed upon by the landlords and HUD. Section 1.9b of the latter parties' "assistance contracts" provides that contract rents are to be adjusted annually by applying the latest automatic adjustment factors developed by HUD on the basis of particular formulas, while 1.9d specifies that, "[n]otwithstanding any other provisions of this Contract, adjustments as provided in this Section shall not result in material differences between the rents charged for assisted and comparable unassisted units, as determined by the Government . . . ." In the early 1980's, HUD began to conduct independent "comparability studies" in certain real estate markets where it believed that contract rents, adjusted upward by the automatic adjustment factors, were materially higher than prevailing market rates for comparable housing, and to use the private market rents as an independent cap limiting assistance payments. In this litigation, respondent Section 8 landlords allege that 801 of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Reform Act of 1989 (Reform Act)—which, inter alia, authorizes HUD to limit future automatic rent adjustments through the use of comparability studies—violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by stripping them of their vested rights under the assistance contracts to annual rent increases based on the automatic adjustment factors alone. In separate lawsuits, the District Courts each granted summary judgment for respondents. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments in a consolidated appeal.

Held: This Court need not consider whether 801 of the Reform Act un-constitutionally abrogated a contract right to unobstructed formula-based rent adjustments, since respondents have no such right. The assistance contracts do not prohibit the use of comparability studies to impose an independent cap on such adjustments. Indeed, 1.9d's plain

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