Renters using Section 8 housing vouchers were allegedly charged higher rents than unassisted renters in Hartford, according to an action filed in the U.S. District Court for Connecticut.
The action claimed that Imagineers LLC which administers Hartford’s Section 8 housing voucher program, “improperly approved” housing assistance for monthly rental payments which were higher than “comparable unassisted units.”
The residential property companies which rented out the units, Alphabet LLC and Marks LLC, were also accused of violating the False Claims Act. The suit was filed by an unnamed individual on behalf of the government – an action known as “qui tam” and allowed under the False Claims Act.
Section 8 housing voucher program is HUD’s largest initiative and currently provides assistance for 40,244 rental units in Connecticut, according to Affordable Housing Online a database for federal housing assistance. Hartford has Connecticut’s largest market for federally assisted housing.
The voucher program allows a family to find the housing of their choice which also meets the requirements for the program. The public housing agency – such as Imagineers – then pays a subsidy directly to the landlord and the tenant makes up the difference between the subsidized amount and the actual rent.
To be eligible for the voucher an applicant must make less than 50 percent of the county or metropolitan area’s median income. In the case of Hartford County with a median income of $65,499 a resident would have to earn less than $32,749 in order to be eligible.
The voucher program, which is available throughout the state, has “long wait periods,” and only opens for new applicants periodically, according to the Connecticut Department of Housing. “Demand for housing assistance always exceeds the limited funds available to operate the Section 8 programs.”
Although none of the listed companies admitted any wrong-doing, all three settled with the complainant following investigation by the Office of Inspector General “to avoid the delay, uncertainty, inconvenience, and expense of lengthy litigation.”
Under the settlement Imagineers paid $30,000 to the complainant and his or her attorneys, while Alphabet and Marks paid a combined $4,000. Of that settlement $4,200 was paid to the United States Government.