The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO
Ms. Thomas is a public housing tenant residing in the Cabrini Extension project, one of three projects collectively known as "Cabrini-Green." In her complaint, Ms. Thomas makes numerous allegations.
Count one of the complaint alleges the following: 1) the federal and state defendants are charging plaintiff too much rent; 2) the federal and state defendants have rented plaintiff an unsanitary apartment; 3) plaintiff was attacked by another CHA resident on March 11, 1995, and her attacker has not been evicted; 4) the federal and state defendants have denied plaintiff access to common rooms to hold meetings for her various community groups;
and 5) the CHA has reduced maintenance services by over 75 percent resulting in unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions.
Intermittently throughout Count one, Ms. Thomas cites 42 U.S.C. §§ 1437, 1437a; 12 U.S.C. § 1701 et. seq.; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(2) & (3); and the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments as the bases for her claims. Ms. Thomas' complaint states that she has lost income, suffered physical pain, emotional distress, mental anguish and humiliation, and been deprived of food and other "vital necessary" [sic] to maintain her welfare. Ms. Thomas seeks $ 1,000,000.00 in compensatory damages, $ 5,000,000.00 in punitive damages, attorney fees, her alleged rent overcharge (calculated by plaintiff at $ 4,790.00) and equitable relief requiring proper maintenance of Cabrini-Green and correction of all housing code violations in all Cabrini-Green apartments.
In count two of the complaint, Ms. Thomas alleges as follows: 1) the CHA and HUD brought a "fraudulent" eviction action against her; 2) the CHA and HUD are demolishing Cabrini-Green buildings in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1437p; and 3) the state and federal defendants have conspired to charge excessive rent from all CHA residents in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1437a and 12 U.S.C. § 1701z-11. Count two reiterates the injuries and seeks the same monetary damages as count one.
When deciding a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all well pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true. Johnson v. Martin, 943 F.2d 15, 16 (7th Cir. 1991). Any reasonable inferences from those facts must be made in the plaintiff's favor. Id. In addition, a pro se complaint, "however inartfully pleaded," is held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9, 66 L. Ed. 2d 163, 101 S. Ct. 173 (1980). The court's role is to ensure that claims of pro se litigants are given "fair and meaningful consideration." Matzker v. Herr, 748 F.2d 1142, 1146 (7th Cir. 1984). Accordingly, pro se complaints must be liberally construed. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 50 L. Ed. 2d 251, 97 S. Ct. 285 (1976). The complaint need not specify the correct legal theory, nor point to the correct statute in order to survive a motion to dismiss. Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G., 953 F.2d 1073, 1078 (7th Cir. 1992). Finally, a district court may dismiss a complaint only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Hughes, supra, 449 U.S. at 10.
As a threshold matter, I must address what distinction, if any, exists between defendants CHA and HUD. Ms. Thomas' complaint uses these parties interchangeably (and often simultaneously). CHA and HUD, however, play very different roles under the public housing statutory scheme. HUD provides monetary assistance to local public housing agencies ("PHAs"), such as the CHA, for the construction and operation of low-income housing. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1437b-1437i. The PHAs may then charge below-market rent to eligible low income tenants. 42 U.S.C. § 1437a. In exchange for the subsidy, PHAs must comply with federal regulations promulgated by HUD under the United States Housing Act. See generally, 42 U.S.C. § 1437 et. seq. The PHA retains responsibility for managing, maintaining, and operating the housing project. See 42 U.S.C. § 1437 ("It is the policy of the United States. . .to vest in local public housing agencies the maximum amount of responsibility in the administration of their housing programs."); 310 ILCS 10/2 (declaring that management responsibility be given to PHAs operating in Illinois).
The CHA is the PHA with jurisdiction over the City of Chicago, managing all public housing in Chicago. Thus the CHA is in charge of operating and managing Cabrini-Green, while HUD provides funds to allow the CHA to rent apartments at reduced rates.
Due to the distinction between the CHA and HUD, I address the claims against each defendant separately.
I. The Federal Defendants -- HUD, Jack Kemp, and Henry Cisneros
Ms. Thomas first alleges that she is being charged a monthly rent that exceeds the statutory limit. The rent formula of the United States Housing Act is supplied by 42 U.S.C. § 1437a. It provides in part:
[A] family shall pay as rent for a dwelling unit assisted under this chapter. . .the highest of the following amounts, rounded to the nearest dollar:
(A) 30 per centum of the family's monthly adjusted income;
(B) 10 per centum of the family's monthly income; or
(C) if the family is receiving payments for welfare assistance from a public agency and a part of such payments, adjusted in accordance with the family's actual housing costs, is specifically designated by such agency to meet the family's ...