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

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Cite as: 508 U. S. 10 (1993)

Opinion of the Court

require such a result. This limitation is plainly consistent with the Housing Act itself, which provides that "[a]djustments in the maximum rents," whether based on market surveys or on a reasonable formula, "shall not result in material differences" between Section 8 rents and the rents for comparable housing on the private market. 42 U. S. C. 1437f(c)(2)(C) (1988 ed., Supp. III).

In its Rainier View decision, the Court of Appeals read 1.9d's "overall limitation" as empowering HUD only to make prospective changes in the automatic adjustment factors where it discovered that those factors were producing materially inflated rents; under the court's view, 1.9d would not permit "abandonment of the formula method whenever application of the formula would result in a disparity between section 8 and other rents." 848 F. 2d, at 991. But this reading of the contract—under which Section 8 project owners could demand payment of materially inflated rents until the Secretary could publish revised automatic adjustment factors aimed at curing the overpayment—is almost precisely backwards. It would entitle project owners to collect the formula-based adjustments promised by 1.9b notwithstanding that those adjustments were resulting in the sort of material differences in rents prohibited by 1.9d.

Reading 1.9d's "overall limitation" as allowing rent caps based on comparability studies does not, as the Rainier View court supposed, "render the formula method authorized by the statute and elected in the contract a nullity." Ibid. The rent adjustments indicated by the automatic adjustment factors remain the presumptive adjustment called for under the contract. It is only in those presumably exceptional cases where the Secretary has reason to suspect that the adjustment factors are resulting in materially inflated rents that a comparability study would ensue. Because the automatic adjustment factors are themselves geared to reflect trends in the local or regional housing market, theoretically it should not be often that the comparability studies would


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