The First Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Richter, determined that Article78/mandamus-to-compel proceedings were properly brought by owners of rental-properties against the NYC Housing Authority seeking rulings re: increased and suspended “Section 8” rent subsidies. The court held that the property-owners could compel the NYCHA to consider its requests (a ministerial act), but could not compel any specific result (an exercise of discretion). The action was deemed timely because the NYCHA had never denied the requests, therefore the four-month statute never started running. With respect increased subsidies, the court wrote:
An article 78 mandamus proceeding may be brought to compel an agency “to perform a duty enjoined upon it by law” (CPLR 7803). It is well-settled that a mandamus to compel “applies only to acts that are ministerial in nature and not those that involve the exercise of discretion” … . Thus, “the petitioner must have a clear legal right to the relief demanded and there must exist a corresponding nondiscretionary duty on the part of the administrative agency to grant that relief” … .
Supreme Court properly found that the determination of the amount of any increase in the Section 8 subsidy is not purely ministerial but a matter entrusted to NYCHA’s discretion. An owner cannot receive a rent increase unless NYCHA first determines the reasonable rent (24 CFR 982.507[a][i]). In doing so, NYCHA is required to compare the unit’s rent to comparable unassisted units and must consider a myriad of discretionary factors, including location, quality, size, type and age of the unit, and any services, utilities and amenities provided (24 CFR 982.507[b]). Because the determination of the amount of any rental increase involves the exercise of discretion, it is not subject to mandamus. * * *
Although the eventual determination of reasonable rent will be the product of NYCHA’s judgment, the agency does not enjoy similar discretion to not make a decision at all on the rent increase requests. The applicable regulation, relied upon by NYCHA, provides that before any rent increase is allowed, NYCHA “must redetermine the reasonable rent” (24 CFR 982.507[a][i] [emphasis added]; see also 24 CFR 982.519[a] [under regulation relied upon by petitioners, NYCHA must annually adjust rent at owner’s request]). Upon the proper submission of a request for rent increase, NYCHA must process the request and come to a determination, whether adverse to petitioners’ position or not. NYCHA cannot leave petitioners in limbo, neither granting nor denying their requests, many of which have been pending for a significant amount of time. Thus, the petition states a claim for mandamus relief to the extent it seeks an order directing NYCHA to make a determination with respect to the rent increase requests … . Matter of Flosar Realty LLC v New York City Hous. Auth., 2015 NY Slip Op 01906, 1st Dept 3-10-15