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WEBB v. United States Veterans Initiative

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 17, 2019

Stanley Webb, Plaintiff,
United States Veterans Initiative et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, appearing pro se, has sued two private, non-profit organizations -- United States Veterans Initiative (“U.S. VETS”) and The Community Partnership -- for discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq. He also sues under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §§ 2-1401.01 et seq., and the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act, D.C. Code §§ 28-3901 et seq. Am. Compl. at 2, 5 [Dkt. # 9]. U.S. VETS has moved to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am.Compl. [Dkt. # 14]. Plaintiff has opposed the motion [Dkt. ## 21, 26], and U.S. VETS has replied [Dkt. # 19].

         Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, and for the reasons explained below, the Court finds that plaintiff lacks constitutional standing to sue under the FHA. Therefore, it will dismiss the federal claim and, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the non-federal claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Organizational Structure and Services Rendered

         U.S. VETS states that it “is the nation's largest non-profit provider of comprehensive services to homeless and at-risk veterans.” Mem. at 3.[1] It contracts with The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, which in turn “coordinates the District of Columbia's Continuum of Care” for citizens in need.[2] Id., n.2. Housing and programmatic services are funded by “federal government grants” from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) for permanent housing; the Veterans Administration for transitional housing; and the Department of Labor for work force programs. Mem. at 3, n.3. This action arose from plaintiff's participation in the Permanent Supportive Housing Program (“SHP”) administered by U.S. VETS. Id. at 3-4; see also Am. Compl. at 3. “Through leasing funds, . . . U.S. VETS makes housing affordable for program participants.” Mem. at 5. It “does not manage or own properties or apartment buildings” in the District but rather “enters into lease agreements directly with the landlord or management company to rent apartments for occupancy use by its veterans.” Id. During the relevant time period, U.S. Vets had housing “arrangements” for SHP participants at two locations in the District. Id. at 5-6.

         According to U.S. VETS, plaintiff is a veteran who has been enrolled in the SHP for more than eight years. He resided “in a shared 2-bedroom unit” located on Atlantic Street in the District's southeast quadrant from 2010 until January 2016. Mem. at 6; see also Def.'s Ex. B, Feb. 12, 2018 Letter of Determination, No. Probable Cause Finding (“Feb. 12th Dec.”) [Dkt. # 14-2]. When plaintiff's roommate moved out in late 2015, plaintiff lived alone “for a short time” until in January 2016 U.S. VETS terminated the “property lease with the landlord because of ongoing maintenance problems and housing code violations.” Mem. at 7. U.S. VETS had “to move a dozen veterans, ” including plaintiff who “[u]ltimately . . . was relocated to 2613 Douglas Place, S.E. . . . in the Manor Village Apartment complex . . . where he lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with a roommate.” Id. (citing Am. Compl. at 3; Orig. Compl. ¶¶ 8-10, 12).

         On May 25, 2017, plaintiff filed a gender discrimination charge with HUD, claiming that U.S. VETS had discriminated when it failed to offer him “his own apartment unit, while a female client did not have to share an apartment unit.” Feb. 12th Dec. at 1, 6. On June 14, 2017, HUD referred the matter to the D.C. Office of Human Rights (“OHR”), having “determined that the fair housing law” enforced by OHR “is substantially equivalent to the [FHA]” and that OHR “has the authority to address housing discrimination complaints within the area where [plaintiff's] complaint arose.” Def.'s Ex. A, June 14, 2017 Acceptance Letter (citing 42 U.S.C. § 3610(f)) [Dkt. # 14-1 at 10-11]. Following an investigation and an exhaustive analysis, OHR issued the foregoing no probable cause determination. Notably, it found that the female to whom plaintiff compared himself “was in a different program, ” which unlike the SHP, “allow[ed] for single occupancy.” Feb. 12th Dec. at 3. On June 22, 2018, OHR denied plaintiff's request for reconsideration and advised him of his right to file a Petition for Review in D.C. Superior Court, within three years from the date of service of the decision. Def.'s Ex. C [Dkt. # 14-3]. Plaintiff filed suit in this Court on December 13, 2018.

         B. Plaintiff's Allegations and Claims

         In the Amended Complaint, plaintiff alleges the following. On October 8, 2010, U.S. VETS “execute[d] a rental agreement for exclusive rights for apartment #301 at 425 Atlantic Street, SE.” Am. Compl. at 3 ¶ 1. Pursuant to the terms of the lease “under DHS, ” plaintiff's rent was “zero.” Id. In June 2012 while plaintiff was away, U.S. VETS “removed [his] personal property” from the apartment without his consent and placed it in “apartment # 302 without a valid lease agreement.” Id. ¶¶ 2-3. Plaintiff “occupied apartment # 302 for four and a half years without a valid rental agreement.” Id. ¶ 5. On “January 20th, 2017, U.S. VETS entered Apartment 302 “and removed [plaintiff's] belongings when he was not home and without his consent.” Id. ¶ 7. It “took” the belongings “to 2613 Douglass Pl SE #203 without [plaintiff's] consent and without him being present.”[3] Id. ¶ 8. On January 30, 2017, U.S. VETS “appeared at the apartment . . . and presented [plaintiff] with a blank lease” that he “refused to sign[.]” Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff was given “an ultimatum” to sign and date the lease or “take his belongings and go live in the streets.” Id. Allegedly, U.S. VETS “altered” the lease to make it appear as though plaintiff “had agreed to the terms and conditions of their rental agreement and the program called SHP.” Id. ¶ 11.

         Plaintiff has not clearly delineated his claims. He demands an unspecified award of monetary damages for “breach of contract” and at least “$50, 000 for each violation” of the FHA. Am. Compl. at 5.


         A. Motions to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(1)

         A party may move under Rule 12(b)(1) to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. To survive such a motion, plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over its claims. Moms Against Mercury v. FDA, 483 F.3d 824, 828 (D.C. Cir. 2007). In determining whether there is jurisdiction, the Court may “consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Coal. for Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also 5B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1350 (3d ed. 2017) (noting the “wide array of cases from the four corners of the federal judicial system involving the district court's broad discretion to consider relevant and competent evidence on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction to resolve factual issues”). “Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule ...

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