Deal Nets $2.65M for Tenants of Philly Projects

     (CN) – Thousands of public housing tenants will receive $2.65 million to settle 16-year-old claims that the Philadelphia Housing Authority failed to factor rising gas rates into utility allowances.
     Jackie McDowell had led the 1997 class action, which alleged violations of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937.
     Although the parties stipulated to settlement and consent decree in January 1998, the housing officials allegedly failed again to factor in rising gas rates, as required under the consent decree and federal law, in the period of July 1, 1999, through Dec. 21, 2002, and from Oct. 31, 2005, to Nov. 30, 2006.
     The Eastern District of Pennsylvania appointed Harris T. Bock as master in August 2010, giving him the authority to make reports and recommendations concerning the identification of class members and the proper calculation and payment of compensation by the defendants.
     Negotiations between the parties kicked off in March 2011, with help from U.S. Magistrate Judge L. Felipe Restrepo.
     This culminated in a settlement of $2.65 million to be distributed among 5,642 class members. Housing officials also agreed not to oppose paying the plaintiffs’ counsel $730,000 in costs and fees.
     With the court’s preliminary approval of the settlement on Jan. 28, 2013, the parties informed the class about a hearing for deal and posted notice of it in the Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Tribune, Al Dia, and the housing authority’s offices.
     Interested parties did not raise objections to the proposed settlement within the notice-provided 30-day period or at the fairness hearing on April 15.
     U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg granted final approval Friday – 16 years since the initial filing of the complaint.
     “After careful consideration, we conclude that the parties’ proposed settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate,” Goldberg wrote. “The settlement reflects good faith, arms-length negotiations between the parties as to the reasonable valuation of plaintiffs’ claims and the attorneys’ fees expended. It was reached with the assistance of Judge Restrepo and contemplated the risks related to establishing liability and damages, the complexity of outstanding issues and the expense and delay attendant in fully litigating the case. We also note that plaintiffs were represented by experienced and reputable counsel. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are staff members at Community Legal Services, an institution dedicated to representing low income residents of Philadelphia. Further, the settlement fund is adequate and will provide recovery for all of the class members without delay or the risk of an adverse determination. Moreover, no class member has objected to the settlement.”
     The Philadelphia Housing Authority is the nation’s fourth largest with more than 14,000 affordable housing units serving nearly 80,000 tenants, and $250 million in redevelopment projects citywide, according to its website.

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