On appeal from the Department of Community Affairs.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and Guadagno.
Appellant Alan Loring appeals from the denial of his application to the Department of Community Affairs, Division of Housing (DCA), for an increase in his subsidy voucher from a one-bedroom allowance to a three-bedroom allowance. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Appellant is an adult male with various mental and physical disabilities. He is a participant in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, a federal housing subsidy program established by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, pursuant to the United States Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437 to 1437z-7, to assist low-income families with affordable housing.
As an adult with no spouse, children or dependents, appellant qualified for a housing benefits voucher for a one-bedroom housing unit. For several years he resided in a subsidized apartment, but living conditions deteriorated to the point where he had to relocate. In 2008, appellant's parents purchased a four-bedroom, two-story home for appellant to live in. To accommodate appellant's disabilities, DCA provided a waiver to permit appellant to use his one-bedroom voucher to pay his mother, as his "landlord," to subsidize the cost of the home.
After purchasing the home, appellant's parents realized that the costs
associated with the home were more than they expected. In order to
keep appellant in the home, Alan's mother, Susan Loring,*fn1
applied on appellant's behalf to increase his rental
assistance from a one-bedroom to a three-bedroom voucher. DCA denied
the request and determined that appellant
was only entitled to a voucher as a single household member. Susan,
who was represented by counsel, appealed to the Office of
The administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing where Susan and a DCA regulatory officer testified. After Susan purchased the home, she installed several costly repairs including a new roof, retaining wall, furnace and duct work. Susan realized that the maintenance and repair costs were more than she anticipated. She testified that the "only solution that [she] could think of [was] to ask for a higher voucher." Susan admitted that she knew before purchasing the home that Alan was only entitled to a one-bedroom voucher.
The ALJ found that Alan Loring failed to establish grounds for an exception based on his disability and concluded that Susan cannot correct her "misjudgment" in estimating the costs associated with the home by seeking an increase in Alan's subsidy level. The ALJ also noted that the application did not mention Alan's disability as a basis for seeking the upgraded voucher. The only evidence presented at the hearing relating to Alan's disability was that his therapist suggested that he live with a therapeutic rabbit. The ALJ found insufficient basis to justify additional living space and affirmed the DCA decision to deny the request to upgrade the voucher.
On June 10, 2011, DCA sent appellant's counsel a copy of the ALJ's decision dated November 18, 2010, and informed him that appellant's one-bedroom voucher would continue. On June 21, 2011, appellant filed a "Notice of Appeal and Request for Administrative Law Tribunal Hearing." He requested another administrative hearing to contest DCA's rejection of his request for a three-bedroom voucher. In a fax accompanying the notice, appellant's counsel explained:
The original appeal was denied because Alan Loring's mother was trying not to hurt his feelings by detailing his medical problems.
That concern resulted in a technical denial and does not stop him from making a new application and supplying the medical documentation which would satisfy the concerns of the Administrative Law Judge.
In a letter dated November 2, 2011, a DCA hearing officer denied appellant's application, finding that it was not a "new" request for an exception but an attempt to have DCA reconsider the prior denial. The hearing officer noted that the additional materials provided by appellant were reviewed and, while they "more clearly describe Mr. Loring's issues, both mental and physical, there is nothing that supports the position that he is in need of a three bedroom voucher." It was also noted that Alan had already been granted an exception allowing him to use his one-bedroom ...