HUD grants City's request to reinstate disabled senior's Section 8 voucher after long nursing home stay

July 16, 2014

When I was a staff lawyer at The Legal Aid Society’s Brooklyn Office for the Aging (prior to my arrival at VOLS), I represented a 65-year-old man who had had a Section 8 housing voucher for many years but lost it following a stroke and his consequent extended stay in a nursing home.  Here’s why: There’s a federal rule that says that a family receiving a Section 8 benefit cannot be absent from their apartment for more than 180 days for any reason, and the city agency that administers my client’s voucher therefore terminated his benefit because he was in a nursing home for over two years before finally returning to his apartment.

But there’s also a federal rule that says that a federal agency (HUD, in this case) can waive the 180-day-absence rule under certain circumstances.   Because the city refused to ask HUD to waive the rule in my client’s case, I filed what is called a federal Fair Housing Complaint with HUD, alleging that the city was discriminating against my client on the basis of his disabilities by refusing to ask for a waiver.

I’ve just learned from my former colleague who took over the case that the city agreed to settle the complaint by asking HUD for a waiver, which HUD has granted! Now the client, a paraplegic with 24-hour home care, will get to remain in his home of over 30 years rather than have to move back to a nursing home permanently.

Why am I telling you this? To my knowledge, this will be the first waiver of the 180-day rule involving Section 8 and an extended nursing home stay to be published in the federal  register.   And it’s my belief that these sorts of cases may be more common than we realize and almost certainly will become more common as voucher holders age.  Therefore, it’s important that, if you encounter someone who has had a Section 8 voucher revoked under circumstances like these, or who has a voucher and is facing a long nursing home stay, you try to refer that person to a legal services office for assistance.  And of course, if you have any questions about any of this, either in the abstract or regarding a particular situation, please don’t hesitate to contact me.