Cisneros v. Alpine Ridge Group, 508 U.S. 10, 5 (1993)

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Opinion of the Court

trends recorded by the Consumer Price Index and the Bureau of the Census American Housing Surveys.

Section 1.9d of the contracts, in part tracking the language of 8(c)(2)(C) of the Housing Act, 42 U. S. C. 1437f(c)(2)(C) (1988 ed., Supp. III), provides:

"d. Overall Limitation. Notwithstanding 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; provided that this limitation shall not be construed to prohibit differences in rents between assisted and comparable unassisted units to the extent that such differences may have existed with respect to the initial Contract Rents." App. to Brief for Petitioners 8a-9a.


In the early 1980's, HUD began to suspect that the assistance payments it was making to some landlords under the Section 8 program were well above prevailing market rates for comparable housing. Accordingly, the agency 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 out of line with market rents. Under these studies, HUD personnel would select between three and five other apartment buildings they considered comparable to the Section 8 building and compare their rents. The private market rents would then serve as an independent cap limiting the rent payments HUD would make under the Section 8 contracts.

After several landlords brought suit, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in 1988 that the standard assistance contracts described above prohibited the use of comparability studies as an independent cap on rents. In Rainier View Associates v. United States, 848 F. 2d 988, the Court of

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