United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEY'S FEES RE: DKT. NO.
H. KOH United States District Judge.
Plaintiffs bring this action against the Housing
Authority of the County of Santa Clara (“HACSC”)
and Katherine Harasz, in her official capacity as HACSC's
Executive Director (collectively, “Defendants”).
Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's
Fees and Costs. ECF No. 157. The Court held a hearing on this
motion on March 16, 2017.
considered the submissions and oral arguments of the parties,
the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court
GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees and
Costs. The Court awards $712, 500 in attorney's fees and
costs, as well as $50, 000 in named Plaintiff incentive
Section 8 Voucher Program provides monthly housing subsidies
to low-income individuals and their families. ECF No. 30
(“SAC”) ¶ 23. Unlike traditional public
housing programs, subsidies provided under the Section 8
Program are “not tied to a particular unit in a
particular building.” Id. ¶ 24. Instead,
voucher holders find a private landlord willing to accept a
Section 8 voucher. If the private landlord agrees to rent to
the voucher holder, the landlord is paid a monthly subsidy by
a local Public Housing Agency (“PHA”), known as
the “housing assistance payment.” Id.
¶ 27. The voucher holder pays the remaining balance.
Id. ¶ 23.
federal regulations govern how a local PHA may operate its
Section 8 Program. Under 24 C.F.R. § 982.503(a), for
instance, a “PHA must adopt a payment standard schedule
that establishes voucher payment standard amounts for each
[market] area in the PHA['s] jurisdiction.” 24
C.F.R. § 982.503(a). These voucher payment standards are
based on the fair market value of rental units and “are
used to calculate the monthly housing assistance payment for
a family.” Id. According to Plaintiffs, Santa
Clara County voucher holders were generally responsible
“for paying a [monthly] rental amount equal to 30% of
their income, ” although the exact percentage varied.
SAC ¶ 25. Likewise, 24 C.F.R. § 982.402(a) provides
that a PHA “must establish subsidy standards that
determine the number of bedrooms needed for families of
different sizes and compositions.” 24 C.F.R. §
982.402(a). “For each family, the PHA determines the
appropriate number of bedrooms under the PHA subsidy
standards.” Id. Each voucher holder is
“allocated a specific number of bedrooms . . . based on
their family size and composition.” SAC ¶ 26.
Although “a family [may] choose to live in a unit
with more bedrooms than the family is allocated under the
[subsidy] standard, ” the subsidy standard establishes
“the maximum amount [of] housing assistance” that
a voucher holder may receive. Id. Finally, 24 C.F.R.
§ 982.54(a) requires PHAs to “adopt a written
administrative plan that establishes local policies for
administration of the program in accordance with HUD
requirements.” 24 C.F.R. § 982.54(a).
the complex interplay between these regulations, the Court
takes a moment to review them in additional detail. Family
size and composition determine the number of bedrooms that a
voucher holder is allocated, which in turn determines the
voucher holder's subsidy standard. The subsidy standard
is tied to a payment standard schedule, which is set by the
market value for rental units within a particular area. By
way of example, HACSC will “pay no more than $1628.00
towards a 2-bedroom unit.” SAC ¶ 25. A Santa Clara
County voucher holder allocated a two-bedroom unit would
therefore receive a maximum subsidy of $1628. The voucher
holder may decide to rent a three-bedroom unit, but will not
receive any more than $1628, unless the market value for a
two-bedroom unit changes.
HACSC is the PHA responsible for administering the Section 8
Program in Santa Clara County. Id. ¶ 17. As
Executive Director, Katherine Harasz (“Harasz”)
is responsible for “carrying out the duties outlined in
the [HACSC's] Administrative Plan and the regulations
promulgated by [HUD].” Id. ¶ 16.
early 2013, “the federal government imposed an $85
billion across-the-board cut in discretionary federal
spending.” Def. Mot. at 5. Known as
“sequestration” or the “sequester, ”
this reduction “resulted in an approximately $2 billion
decrease to HUD's housing support programs, including $21
million in funding for HACSC's Voucher Program.”
Id. In order to address this decrease in funding,
HACSC made significant revisions to its administration of the
Section 8 Program on March 1, 2013. SAC ¶ 28.
such changes are relevant to the instant action. First, prior
to March 1, 2013, “children of the opposite sex (unless
they were very, very young children) and persons from
different generations (parents, grandparents, children) were
not required to share a room.” Id. ¶ 29.
After March 1, 2013, “the head of household (with
spouse, co-head, Registered Domestic Partner, or
boyfriend/girlfriend if any) [were assigned] one room and an
additional bedroom [was assigned] for every two persons
regardless of age or gender.” Id. Second,
“[t]he revised calculations increased each
participant's total tenant payment from 30% to 35% of
their gross monthly income or $50 a month, whichever [was]
higher.” Def. Mot. at 5-6.
changes resulted in many voucher holders receiving a smaller
bedroom allocation and a smaller subsidy. SAC ¶ 31.
Subsequent to these changes, each named Plaintiff submitted a
reasonable accommodation request for an additional bedroom
based on at least one family member having a documented
disability. Id. ¶ 3. HACSC denied these
April 14, 2014, Huynh filed the original complaint in this
case in Santa Clara County Superior Court. ECF No. 1-1
(“Compl.”). Defendants removed this case to
federal court on May 22, 2014. ECF No. 1. On May 29, 2014,
Defendants moved to dismiss the original complaint. ECF No. 8
(“Mot. to Dismiss”). The Court granted in part
and denied in part Defendants' motion to dismiss on
September 2, 2014, ECF No. 14 (“MTD Order”), and
Huynh subsequently filed a First Amended Complaint. ECF No.
18 (“FAC”). On January 7, 2015, the Court granted
Huynh's request to file a Second Amended Complaint, and
on January 12, 2015, Huynh-now joined by the rest of the
named Plaintiffs-filed the SAC. Defendants answered the SAC
on February 6, 2015. ECF No. 31.
contains five substantive causes of action, based on
violations of (1) the Fair Housing Amendments Act, (2) the
Fair Employment and Housing Act, (3) the California Disabled
Persons Act, (4) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and
(5) the Americans with Disabilities Act. The SAC also
includes a sixth cause of action for declaratory relief.
September 17, 2015, Plaintiffs moved for class certification
pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) and
23(b)(3). After holding a hearing on Plaintiffs' motion,
the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion on November 12,
2015. ECF No. 67 (“Class Cert. Order”).
Specifically, the Court certified the following Class:
Santa Clara County Section 8 voucher holders who have
disabilities and/or have family members with disabilities who
(1) made a reasonable accommodation request to HACSC for an
additional bedroom after July 1, 2013, (2) had a documented
and undisputed need for a separate bedroom, (3) were denied a
disability-related increase in the number of bedrooms by
HACSC, (4) were not previously granted a permanent reasonable
accommodation request, (5) did not request the additional
bedroom for a live-in caregiver or for storage of medical
equipment, and (6) have at least one family member who is not
Id. at 23. In addition, the Court appointed Thanh
Huynh, Venus Benabides, Rudy Garcia, Lynda Gomes, Nicholas
Wallace, Lillie Ware, Stephen Jones, Dehab Haile, and
Freihiwet Tesfamariam as Class Representatives and the Law
Foundation of Silicon Valley as Class Counsel. Id.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(c)(2), the parties
filed a proposed Notice and Opt Out Form for the Court's
review on April 1, 2016. ECF No. 90; Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(2)
(requiring parties to send “the best notice that is
practicable under the circumstances . . . [f]or any class
certified under Rule 23(b)(3)”). The Court made
suggested amendments to these documents, which the parties
adopted in full on April 6, 2016. ECF No. 93. The Court
approved the amended Notice and Opt Out Form on April 6,
2016, which included an opt out deadline of May 5, 2016. ECF
No. 95; see Torrisi v. Tuscon Elec. Power Co., 8
F.3d 1370, 1374 (9th Cir. 1993) (approving opt out deadline
of less than one month after notice). There have been three
opt outs from the class.
November 25, 2015, Defendants filed before the Ninth Circuit
a petition for permission to appeal the Court's class
certification order. ECF No. 71. The Ninth Circuit denied
this petition on April 6, 2016. ECF No. 96.
March 10, 2016, the parties filed cross-motions for summary
judgment. ECF No. 79 (“Def. Mot.”); ECF No. 80
(“Pls. Mot.”). On May 10, 2016, the Court issued
an order which included three questions for the parties to
address at the May 12, 2016 hearing on the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF No. 101. In addition,
the Court requested the parties to file a response to a
fourth question. ECF No. 101 at 1. The parties ...