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Settlement Agreement: Hill vs THA

Oliver Hill, Elizabeth Gabriel, and Orange Avenue United Tenants' Association V Tallahassee Housing Authority, Civil Action No. 4cv-224.

August 10, 2022

This settlement agreement ("Agreement") is entered into as of the 101" day of August 2022, by and among Oliver Hill, Elizabeth Gabriel, and the Orange Avenue United Tenants' Association (together, "Plaintiffs") and the Tallahassee Housing Authority ("Defendant").

WHEREAS, on June 21, 2022, Plaintiffs filed Oliver Hill, et al., v. Tallahassee Housing Authority, Civil Action No, 4:22-cv-225 (the "Action") in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida seeking damages and injunctive relief for alleged violations by the Defendant of Section 804(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3604(a) in planning the demolition and redevelopment of the Orange Avenue Apartments;

WHEREAS, the Defendant has denied Plaintiffs' allegations, and nothing in this stipulation shall be deemed to be an admission of any fault or liability;

WHEREAS, the parties to this Action now desire to resolve the issues raised in the complaint without further proceedings;

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY STIPULATED AND AGREED, by and between the undersigned, as follows:

Replacement Units/Right to Return

  1. All residents relocated because of the new development at the Orange Avenue Apartments ("OAA'') site will have first priority preference right of return to move back into the new development upon its completion,
  2. Preference rights of return residents are residents who meet the eligibility in Section -5 of the Tallahassee Housing Authority's ("THA") Choice-Based Relocation Plan (See Attachment 1).
  3. Each returning resident exercising the preference right of return will be offered a unit at a rental price based on 30% of the resident's income under HUD project-based voucher rent criteria. Subject to changes in income, family size, and assets within HUD rental guidelines, no resident shall pay more for rent than such resident was paying at the time of relocation
  4. Returning residents shall be provided with the opportunity to return to a unit that satisfies the terms of this Settlement Agreement within 90 days of being notified of the anticipated date of completion of each phase, and such units will not be leased to households other than returning residents during that 90-day window. In addition to the foregoing, residents shall have the opportunity to exercise their right to return with first priority on a waiting list within one year of being notified of the completion of the last phase of the development to a unit, if available, that satisfies the terms of this Settlement Agreement. If an eligible returning resident does not have a tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher at the time of exercising such tenant's right to return, such tenant shall receive priority for a unit assisted with a Project-Based Voucher.
  5.  In Phase III of the development THA shall make available 10 units with four bedrooms and 4 units with five bedrooms to accommodate returning residents (i.e., returning residents will get units with the same number of bedrooms they previously had at the development if they meet the eligibility standards for such units.)
  6. THA shall provide funds for accessibility modifications for returning tenants who have a need for the same.
  7. THA shall establish a program to inform eligible residents of their right of return. This program shall include outreach efforts to eligible residents, (including, but not limited to, mailing written letters to Eligible Residents, as defined in THA's Choice-Based Relocation Plan, at their most recent address of record on file with THA at least once every six months summarizing their rights and the progress of the redevelopment). THA will make a good faith effort to maintain up-to-date records of phone numbers and current addresses of Eligible Residents. THA will also host an educational workshop available to all former residents to notify them of the specific nature of their preference right of return and their relocation rights, pursuant to the terms of this Settlement Agreement. The parties will also publish a notice in the media/newspaper that directs former residents to the THA website to view the terms of this Settlement Agreement and any updates to the development.

    Former Tenant Screening
  8. THA itself will not impose and will cause New Columbia Residential LLC, New Affordable Housing Partners, LLC, Country Club Magnolia Family, LP, Columbia Magnolia Family Partners, LLC, and THA Magnolia Family, LLC not to impose any eligibility requirements on any former residents exercising their right of return "through the use of a Housing Choice Voucher or any other government rental assistance program accessed since the tenant was displaced from OAA" other than the requirements of general applicability set forth in 24 CFR.§ 982.307 and 24 CFR. §983.255.
  9. All former residents exercising their preference right of return to the new units shall receive the actual and/or reasonable moving costs and expenses, and penalties for early termination, of their accommodation since OAA, to relocate to the new development paid by THA including any security deposits ( except in situations where the individual tenant has received the return of his/her security deposit from the prior landlord).
  10. THA will contract with an experienced consultant to work with its Relocation Team to identify and train its Relocation Team on the best practices in providing mobility counseling to former tenants who choose to relocate to a location different than the new development, in higher opportunities areas. THA shall in good faith implement the identified best practices into its relocation plan and assist with security deposits, moving expenses, and application fees.
  11. THA shall, subject to HUD's approval and its financial ability to implement and upgrade its systems and procedures to track and monitor the higher standards, adopt small area fair market rents in order to increase the purchasing power of vouchers in higher opportunity areas. Small Area Fair Market Rents (SAFMRs) are set at the zip code rather than the metropolitan area level, which will lead to fair market rents that are more reflective of the actual and higher rental cost within the city limits and therefore result in higher payment standards in higher opportunity areas.
  12. The THA shall seek a HUD waiver to authorize payment standards at 120% of the SAFMR pursuant to 24 C.F.R. §982.50 3 (c)(2). In a time of rapidly increasing rents, setting payment standards at 120% of the SAFMRs would further increase the likelihood of Phase 3 tenants being able to find units in higher opportunity areas.
  13. If a former resident of OAA requires an extension to locate private housing using the Housing Choice Voucher and requests such an extension from THA, then the THA shall grant such extension beyond the timeframes set forth in the Housing Choice Voucher Program Administrative Plan.
  14. THA shall additionally pay the security deposits of former tenants who choose to relocate. If units with higher rents are brought into reach through the use of SAFMRs and payment standards set at 120% of the SAFMRs, tenants would likely have to pay larger security deposits in order to access those units in practice. Because many former OAA tenants lack substantial savings, security deposit assistance from THA should be utilized on their behalf to bridge the gap.
  15. THA shall, in accordance with paragraph 10 hereinabove, conduct proactive landlord recruitment to increase the likelihood of landlord participation in the voucher program in higher opportunity areas through proactive recruitment.
  16. For former residents who desire to utilize the Housing Choice Voucher program ("HCV") but have moved to public housing units since no private housing stock is available, THA will pay their moving expenses. For moving costs outside of Leon County, the THA will pay moving costs in accordance with the Department of Transportation's Fixed Residential Moving Cost Schedule, Federal Register Volume 80, No. 142, p. 44183-84.

    Ensuring Adequate Long-Term Supply of Deeply Affordable Housing
  17. THA shall enter into long-term Project Based Voucher ("PBV") contracts with its development partners to ensure that at least 25 % of units at the redeveloped site are dedicated to housing for extremely low-income households for the long-term future and give first preference for the PBV units to former OAA tenants who are not, at the time of application, assisted with Housing Choice Vouchers ("HCV"), especially those relocated to other public housing units.
  18. THA will enforce the project-based rents aspect of this Settlement Agreement for the new development of Enforcement and Monitoring Mechanisms. Under the terms of the HUD Housing Assistance Payment ("HAP") contract, those rents can be for no longer than 20 years. THA agrees to enforce those project-based rents for 20 years.
  19. THA shall provide OAUTA "Tenant Participation Funding" on the schedule and the parties' completion of the identified steps below:
    1. Upon execution of the Settlement Agreement, and pursuant to the last executed Memorandum of Understanding between OAUTA and THA, THA will disburse the sum of $18,461.00 to OAUTA for general operations. THA shall provide the sum of$5,000.00 to Legal Services of North Florida on behalf of OAUTA to conduct resident elections in accordance with HUD regulations and OAUTA by-laws no later than Sept. 16, 2022; to include fees for service, date of election, and notices to residents.
    2. Legal Services of N01th Florida will assist OAUTA by conducting Resident Council Elections in accordance with HUD regulations and OAUTA by-laws no later than November 16, 2022, which shall include:
      • 30 days' public notice of upcoming elections;
      • Nominations will be accepted by Legal Services of North Florida; and
      • Qualified residents will be placed on the ballot for election. Elections will be conducted at the sites and ballots counted by Legal Services of North Florida
    3. THA shall Finalize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the newly elected OAUTA Board in accordance with HUD Notice: PIH 2021-16 no later than Dec. 16, 2022. THA's Board shall approve the MOU finalized by OAUTA's newly elected Board no later than Dec. 31, 2022.
    4. THA shall disburse OAUTA's remaining funds due for the following amounts:
      • FY 2020 (544 units @$25/unit) $13,600.00
      • FY 2021 (544 units @$25/unit) $13,600.00
      • FY 2022 (344 units @$25/unit) $8,600.00
      • Total due sums are $35,800.00

        Enforcement and Monitoring Mechanisms
  20. THA agree to establish a direct line of communication between the THA and the former residents of OAA in which they can call in and seek assistance through the process of relocation and return to the redeveloped site, including a toll-free number established for residents to communicate directly with a THA representative for assistance and redevelopment updates.
  21. THA shall continue to provide updates on the redevelopment process through its Newsletter, which shall include the updates pertaining to the former residents' rights included within this Settlement Agreement, and the contact information of THA's relocation officers, and the direct line of communication telephone number as indicated above. THA shall continue to provide online access to the Newsletter for former residents and shall notify all former residents of its publication.
  22. THA shall provide former residents with a list of agencies that can offer them assistance during the process of relocation and return to the redeveloped site, including, but not limited to, Big Bend Homeless Coalition, Legal Services of North Florida, Inc., 1st Center for Independent Living of North Florida ("Ability First"), and Elder Care Services, Inc. 
  23. THA shall comply with all public records requests made with respect to determining its compliance with the terms of this Settlement Agreement. The THA also agrees to provide an annual report as to the status of all of the relocated residents until the completion of the development project, including after the former residents have had the opportunity to exercise their rights of first priority to return as detailed above.
  24. Upon THA's Board of Commissioners' approval of this Settlement Agreement, Plaintiffs shall dismiss the Complaint, Civil Action No. 4:33-cv-225, with prejudice at once.
  25. This Settlement Agreement shall be governed by and construed under the laws relating to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and applicable regulations, and the laws of the State of Florida, excluding principles thereof governing conflicts of laws.
  26. The parties shall endeavor to resolve amicably by negotiation any dispute, controversy, or claim arising out of, relating to, or in connection with this Agreement (each, a "Dispute"). Notice of such Dispute must be in writing and set forth in detail the nature of the dispute and the relevant provisions of this Settlement Agreement at issue. If any such Dispute remains unresolved 60 days after written notice of such Dispute, the Dispute shall be referred to non-binding mediation by a single mediator under the JAMS or other designated mediation rules. If such mediation does not result in an agreed resolution of the Dispute within 60 days, either party may bring an action, which will arise under the Fair Housing Act and the HUD regulations enacted thereunder and referenced in this Settlement Agreement, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida for specific performance or other appropriate remedy.

    Financial Relief
  27. Damages shall be paid by THA to Plaintiff Oliver Hill in the amount of $2,000 upon execution of this settlement Agreement, $2,000 on September 1, 2022, and $1,000 on October 1, 2022.
  28. Damages shall be paid by THA to Plaintiff Elizabeth Gabrief in the amount of $2,000 upon execution of the Agreement, $2,000 on September 1, 2022, and $1,000 on October 1, 2022.
  29. Each party will bear its own costs and attorneys' fees.
  30. Nothing in this Settlement Agreement shall be considered an admission of liability by THA.

Dated: August 10, 2022

Attorneys for Plaintiff
One Liberty Plaza
New York, New York 10006

Signed By:
Jonathan I. Blackman
David H. Herrington

3395 Briarwood Lane Tallahassee, FL 32303

Signed By:
Oliver Hill

Attorneys for Plaintiff
2119 Delta Blvd
Tallahassee, FL 32303

Signed By:
Scott Manion
N. Giovanni Bush
Laura "Mary Rose" Whitehouse

1700 Joe Louis Street, Apt. 36 Tallahassee, FL 32304

Signed By:
Elizabeth Gabriel

Attorneys for Plaintiff
1500 K Street NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20005

Signed By:
Thomas Silverstein
Malcolm Peyton-Cook
Anneke dunbar-gronke

1700 Joe Louis Street, Apt.165
Tallahassee, FL 32304

Signed By:
Oliver Hill, President of Orange Avenue United Tenants' Association

Larry K. White LLC.
Attorney for Defendant
1367 E. Lafayette St., Suite A Tallahassee, FL 32301

Signed By:
Larry K. White, Esq.

2940 Grady Road
Tallahassee, FL 32312

Signed By:
Brenda Williams, Executive Director of Tallahassee Housing Authority

Jack L. Mclean Jr and Company
Attorney for Defendant
7119 Summit Ridge Dr. Tallahassee, FL 32312

Signed By:
/S/ Jack L. McLean Jr.
Jack L. McLean Jr, Esq.

Attorneys for Defendant
201 E. Kennedy Boulevard
Tampa, FL 33602

Signed By:
/S/ Paul M. Quin
Paul M. Quin, Esq.

Attorneys for Defendant
315 South Palafox Street
Pensacola, FL 32305

Signed By:
/S/ Michelle L. Hendrix
Michelle L. Hendrix, Esq.