Inclusive Communities Project v. HUD, No. 14-3333, 2016 WL 4800440 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 13, 2016) (Boyle, J.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Inclusive Communities Project v. HUD, No. 14-3333, 2016 WL 4800440 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 13, 2016) (Boyle, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning House Choice Vouchers used in Dallas-area counties as of June 30, 2013

Disposition: Denying defendant's motion for summary judgment; granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 6: The court holds that "[plaintiff] prevails on its Motion for Summary Judgment because HUD has failed to sustain its burden of proof." First, the court finds that, "[h]ere, all of the Withheld Information relates to individuals and, as HUD explains in its Vaughn index, its release could 'lead to identification of those households receiving housing assistance,' which is sufficient to bring it under Exemption 6." Second, regarding the privacy interests at stake, the court finds that "HUD has demonstrated that a substantial privacy interest would be served by withholding non-private information that could lead to the discovery of HCV holders' names and addresses, but it has not demonstrated a substantial probability that such a discovery would happen." The court explains that, "[h]ere, HUD has outlined the causal chain of events that would have to occur for releasing the Withheld Information to lead to discovery of voucher recipients' names and addresses." "First, the information released would have to include household-level data for households in a geographic area with ten or fewer voucher recipients." "Second, it would have to be released to requesters who possessed existing knowledge of residents in that particular geographic area." "Third, the requesters would have to combine the released information with their existing knowledge to identify voucher recipients." "But it has not addressed whether there is a likelihood or substantial probability of this chain of events's occurrence." Despite finding no privacy interests, the court continues on to find "that [plaintiff] has shown that a public interest exists in monitoring HUD's performance of its statutory duty to administer the HCVP, which encompasses its implementation of oversight measures" and "that this public interest is served by disclosure of the Withheld Information." Also, "[t]he Court rejects HUD's contention that disclosing the Withheld Information has very little incremental value[]" because "[plaintiff] cannot perform [desired] Calculations using [already available] data." Fourth, the court finds that "the public's interest in more easily monitoring HUD's administration of the HCVP – especially its distribution and management of more than $200,000,000 in subsidies – along with FOIA's strong presumption in favor of disclosure, lead to the conclusion that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the HCV holders’ privacy interest."

    The court does "[deny] [plaintiff's] request that the Court issue an order prohibiting HUD from relying on Exemption 6 to deny future FOIA requests for the same records ordered produced in this case."
District Court
Exemption 6
Updated January 19, 2017