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Modoc Lassen Indian Housing Authority v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 10, 2014

MODOC LASSEN INDIAN HOUSING AUTHORITY, the tribally designated housing entity for the Grindstone Indian Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians of California, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT; SHAUN DONOVAN, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; DEBORAH A. HERNANDEZ, General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing; and GLENDA GREEN, Director, Office of Grants Management, Office of Native American Programs, Defendants.


RICHARD P. MATSCH, Senior District Judge.

On November 25, 2008, Plaintiff Modoc Lassen Indian Housing Authority ("Modoc Lassen" or "the Tribe") filed this action for judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., claiming that the Defendants (collectively "HUD") violated the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 ("NAHASDA"), 25 U.S.C. § 4101 et seq., by reducing the number housing units counted as Formula Current Assisted Stock ("FCAS") for the FCAS component of the Tribe's share of the annual Indian Housing Block Grant ("IHBG") and recapturing IHBG funds which the Tribe had received in past years for those units. Modoc Lassen's complaint requested, among other relief, the return of the recaptured funds and an injunction against future recaptures.

Jurisdiction is provided by the APA and by 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1346. The Court has jurisdiction to grant declaratory relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, and jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 702 and 28 U.S.C. § 2202.

The Administrative Record ("AR") was filed on June 30, 2010 [#14].

This action is governed by the version of NAHASDA that existed before it was amended by the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-411, 122 Stat. 4319 (2008). Legal issues common to this action and related actions were determined in two previous memorandum opinions and orders in Fort Peck Housing Authority v. HUD et al., Civil Action No. 05-cv-00018-RPM, dated August 31, 2012, and March 7, 2014.[1]

The order dated March 7, 2014 required the plaintiffs to submit a proposed form of judgment, specifying the amounts to be paid to each tribe or tribal housing entity and the asserted sources of payment. On March 26, 2014, HUD moved for the establishment of scheduling orders, requesting additional briefing before the entry of judgment.

On April 15, 2014, Modoc Lassen submitted its proposed judgment and a response to HUD's motion which identified the challenged agency actions and the legal support for the requested relief. HUD replied, preserving its objections to this Court's prior rulings and addressing the specific relief requested by Modoc Lassen in Section III of it reply. HUD's motion for a scheduling order is now moot.

On June 9, 2014, Modoc Lassen moved to strike section III of HUD's reply, asserting that HUD's reply includes arguments that are untimely and mischaracterize the Administrative Record. The findings and conclusions in this order render that motion moot.

Modoc Lassen's action concerns HUD's determinations about the FCAS eligibility of thirteen mutual help units. Modoc Lassen challenges agency determinations stated in two letters from HUD to Modoc Lassen:

• letter dated January 10, 2003, notifying Modoc Lassen of grant overfunding for fourteen units for fiscal years 1999-2002, [2] and

• letter dated March 17, 2003, revising HUD's previous determination about the number of overpaid units and demanding repayment of $146, 764 for grant overfunding for thirteen mutual help units for fiscal years 1999-2002.[3]

The Administrative Record reflects that the 25-year lease/purchase period for the subject units expired in 1993. The units were not conveyed to the tenants/homebuyers at that time due to title impediments that required action by the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA"). Modoc Lassen communicated with the BIA about those matters and on April 21, 1998, the BIA approved the conveyances and provided the Tribe with documents of conveyance.[4] After receiving those documents from the BIA, Modoc Lassen did not complete the conveyances because the tenants/homebuyers still owed rent and/or insurance premiums, and with respect to one unit, the tenant/homebuyer had died and there were unresolved issues regarding an assignment of the lease.[5] The units remained on the Tribe's FCAS inventory on its Formula Response form.

For the period between 1993 and 1998, HUD agreed that the units were still eligible for funding under the FCAS component of the IHBG allocation formula. HUD challenged the FCAS-eligibility of the units for fiscal years 1999 through 2002.[6]

Modoc Lassen reported to HUD that conveyances had not been completed because - under the terms of the Mutual Help Occupancy Agreements - the tenants/homebuyers were not entitled to exercise the purchase option until they had fully complied with their payment obligations. HUD rejected the Tribe's reasons for its continued ownership of the units. In the letter dated January 1, 2003, HUD stated "in accordance with [24 C.F.R.] § 1000.318(a)(2) and NAHASDA Guidance 98-19, ... nonpayment is not a sufficient ...

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