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Bostic v. District of Columbia Housing Authority

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

June 29, 2017

Nelson Bostic, Petitioner,
v.
District of Columbia Housing Authority, Respondent.

          Argued November 21, 2016

         On Petition for Review of an Order of the District of Columbia Housing Authority (C-393-14)

          Beth Mellen Harrison, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, with whom Jonathan H. Levy, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, was on the brief, for petitioner.

          Frederick A. Douglas, with whom Curtis A. Boykin and Alex M. Chintella were on the brief, for respondent.

          Chad A. Readier, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Channing D. Phillips, United States Attorney, and Mark B. Stern and Sarah Carroll, Attorneys, Appellate Staff, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, were on the brief for the United States as amicus curiae in support of respondent.

          Before Fisher and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Belson, Senior Judge.

          MCLEESE, ASSOCIATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner Nelson Bostic seeks review of a decision of the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) to terminate him from a housing-voucher program because Mr. Bostic is required to register for life as a convicted sex offender. Mr. Bostic contends that DCHA's decision is contrary to federal law. We affirm.

         I.

         The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is a rent-subsidy program funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered in the District by DCHA. 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(a), (o)(1) (2015); 24 C.F.R. § 982.1(a)(1) (2016); D.C. Code § 6-202 (2016). Participants in the program can rent existing units on the private market, paying a percentage of their income towards rent, with the remaining cost paid by government subsidy. 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(o).

         The federal Housing Act, the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act (QHWRA), and related HUD regulations establish requirements for the program, including policies on admission to and termination from the program. 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(o); 42 U.S.C. §§ 13661-64 (2015); 24 C.F.R. pt. 982 (2016). Specifically, QHWRA requires that "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law, an owner of federally assisted housing shall prohibit admission to such housing for any household that includes any individual who is subject to a lifetime registration requirement under a State sex offender registration program." 42 U.S.C.§ 13663(a). A HUD regulation promulgated in 2001 requires local public-housing agencies (PHAs) such as DCHA to prohibit admission to the program of households that include a member subject to lifetime sex-offender registration. 24 C.F.R. § 982.553(a)(2)(i) (2016). In 2013, DCHA promulgated 14 DCMR § 5804.1 (b), mandating termination from the program of any family if "[a]ny member of the household is subject to a lifetime registration requirement under a state or District of Columbia sex offender program."

         We understand the following circumstances to be undisputed for purposes of this appeal. In 1982, Mr. Bostic was convicted of forcible rape in the District of Columbia. He served eighteen years in prison and was released on parole in 2000. Under the District's Sex Offender Registration Act, Mr. Bostic is required to register for life as a convicted sex offender. D.C. Code § 22-4001 et seq. (2012). Mr. Bostic registered in 2000, and he has subsequently verified his registration information with the Metropolitan Police Department as required. He has complied with all of the conditions of his parole and has not been arrested since his release.

         Shortly after his release, Mr. Bostic applied to DCHA for housing assistance under the program and was placed on a waiting list. In 2008, Mr. Bostic reached the top of the waiting list. As part of DCHA's screening of applicants, Mr. Bostic provided a police clearance from the Metropolitan Police Department. Because his conviction was over twenty-five years old, it did not appear on the clearance, which looked back only six years. DCHA did not ask Mr. Bostic any other questions about his criminal history. Mr. Bostic was admitted to the program and moved into an apartment. Because 24 C.F.R. § 982.553(a)(2)(i) precludes admission of lifetime sex-offender registrants, Mr. Bostic was admitted to the program in violation of federal law. In 2014, DCHA conducted an internal audit and discovered Mr. Bostic's status as a lifetime sex-offender registrant. Relying on 14 DCMR § 5804.1 (b), DCHA recommended that Mr. Bostic be terminated from the program.

         At an informal hearing before DCHA, Mr. Bostic did not dispute his status as a lifetime sex-offender registrant. Instead, he presented evidence that he requires assistance from a home health-aide five days a week and could not secure housing without a subsidy because of his debilitating health problems. In addition, Mr. Bostic argued that 14 DCMR § 5804.1 (b) was contrary to federal law. Concluding that 14 DCMR § 5804.1 (b) was mandatory and not contrary to federal law, the Hearing ...


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