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Judge signs temporary restraining order against La Joya Housing Authority

The La Joya Housing Authority attempted to cancel a family's Section 8 benefits and refused to hold a hearing when the family complained, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

The La Joya Housing Authority threatened to cancel a family's Section 8 benefits and refused to hold an informal hearing after the family complained, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

With help from Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, tenant Rosa Elva Gutierrez filed the lawsuit on July 6.

"My family and I don't have a lot," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez started receiving Section 8 benefits, which subsidize her family's rent, during August 1999, according to the lawsuit.

Health problems prevent Gutierrez and her husband from working, according to the lawsuit. The family of seven survives on $605 per month in child support and $742 in food stamp benefits. The Section 8 housing voucher covers $392 of her $450 monthly rent payment.

Gutierrez's problems started in May, when her landlord decided to increase the rent, according to the lawsuit.

She contacted the housing authority, which reviewed the new monthly rent and determined Gutierrez would pay an additional $7 per month, according to the lawsuit. The housing authority, though, refused to provide her with written documentation of the rent increase.

According to the lawsuit:

Ms. Gutierrez insisted on receiving written documentation of the rental increase, informed the receptionist that if she did not receive written documentation of the rental increase she would file a complaint against them, and requested to speak to the executive director of the Housing Authority. That same day, the Executive Director of the La Joya Housing Authority, Ms. Frances Salinas De Leon, contacted Ms. Gutierrez by phone, yelled at her, accused her of having yelled at the receptionist, and threatened to terminate her Section 8 Program benefits.

Salinas De Leon, the former chairwoman of the housing authority board, started supervising day-to-day operations after the board terminated Executive Director J.J. Garza. She couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

After reviewing the lawsuit, state District Judge Roberto "Bobby" Flores signed a temporary restraining order against the housing authority.

The restraining order requires the housing authority to keep Gutierrez on the Section 8 voucher program and pay her rent until a hearing on July 20.

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