Judge: Housing Authority Requirement That Section 8 Tenant Obtain Legal Guardianship Over Minor Niece To Qualify Her As Authorized Household Member Or Risk Rent Subsidy Reduction "Impermissibly Discriminates Against Non-Nuclear Families" In Violation Of Fair Housing Act
- A federal court struck down a policy  that required grandparents and other caretakers to obtain legal guardianship of minors living in federally-subsidized housing.
The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority previously required that caretakers be the legal guardians of children living with them in federally-subsidized housing. If not, the caretaker’s housing would be jeopardized.
District Court Judge James Mahan called the housing authority’s policy “discriminatory on its face” and ruled that it violated federal law. Mahan said in the opinion that “this requirement impermissibly discriminates against non-nuclear families(.)”(1)
Nevada Legal Services,(2) which represented plaintiff Antoria Pickens in the case, sued the housing authority in February, alleging that the policy violated the Fair Housing Act. Pickens had added a minor to her household as her temporary guardian — with the permission of the minor’s out-of-state, court-appointed guardian — but had not obtained legal guardianship. In August 2014, the housing authority removed the minor from Pickens’ household and her federal housing subsidy was reduced [Editor's Note: The housing authority adjusted Pickens' subsidy from a three-bedroom unit to a two-bedroom unit, clipping her subsidy by $72/month].
“The reality is that a significant number of low-income households feature children who are living with grandparents or aunts and uncles,” said Ron Sung, an attorney for Nevada Legal Services. “SNRHA’s policy of threatening to terminate these families unless they obtain a court-ordered guardianship essentially forced families to go through a time-consuming and potentially expensive court process that might ultimately affect the ability of these children to later reunite with their parents.”
See also, Court: Housing Authority rule on child residency is unconstitutional:
- [P]ickens' minor niece was removed from her household earlier this year because Pickens had not obtained the court-ordered guardianship required by the authority, although she had written permission from the minor's legal custodian for the girl to live with her.
"The court finds that the housing authority's requirement for temporary guardians to obtain court-ordered guardianship imposes an additional burden on non-nuclear families than on nuclear families," according to court records filed last [month].
(2) Nevada Legal Services is a non-profit statewide organization providing free legal assistance to low-income Nevadans, serving all seventeen counties through offices located in Las Vegas, Reno, Elko, Yerington, and an outreach office in Carson City.