Legal Aid reaches proposed settlement with Housing Authority over utility charges

File photo. File photo.

Attorneys with the Legal Aid Justice Center have reached a proposed settlement with the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority that may could be worth upwards of $500,000 in cash and relief to public housing tenants. A federal class action suit filed last year claimed that the CRHA failed to provide adequate utility allowances to its residents, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars of overcharges to as many as 2,000 low-income residents in Charlottesville.

According to a press release from the LAJC, the proposed settlement was filed Tuesday, September 30, and must be approved by Federal District Court Judge Glen Conrad and go through a fairness hearing before it’s final.

The plaintiffs in the case asked the CRHA for three things. They want the Housing Authority to reevaluate its utility allowance and establish a new policy that will better accommodate the needs of its tenants, and they want each tenant to be reimbursed for all overcharges since 2003, to the tune of about $400,000. Finally, the CRHA promised an incentive of a $50 U.S. savings bond for residents who keep their utility usage within the allowance, which LAJC’s John Conover said the The CRHA has not followed through on. The suit demanded the CRHA acknowledge and honor its promise to award the bonds.

The proposed agreement states that $95,400 will be distributed among tenants who paid utilities to the CRHA from June 2, 2007 through may 31, 2013, and another $6,000 will be given to renters whose utility charges were below their annual utility allowance. The press release also states that current public housing residents will receive a $15 per month credit on their accounts for 36 months, and $5 per month for an additional two years.

After the suit was filed last year, the CRHA conducted a new utility allowance study, and has adopted a new policy allowing elderly and disabled residents to seek relief from utility surcharges for special needs. All together, LAJC estimates the proposed settlement could be worth half a million dollars total in relief and cash to public housing tenants.