We had all but forgotten about the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) when HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson resigned on Monday.
His resignation, far more than his tenure on the Cabinet, reminded us that HUD has a role to play in the current housing and mortgage crisis, particularly in regard to the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
We would like to see HUD take an active role in investigating whether discrimination played a role in the subprime mortgage crisis, which has hit the cities and minorities especially hard.
We would also like to see HUD participate in ramped-up efforts to expose and punish mortgage fraud, which has also disproportionately affected minorities.
But perhaps it is too late for HUD.
Created with great hope in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, HUD was given the powerful mission of developing and executing a national policy on housing and cities. Since then, HUD has become a center of government corruption and waste, betraying the public trust in scandal after scandal under both Democratic and Republication administrations, as it awarded contracts and funneled enormous sums of public money on the basis of personal and political connections rather than the public interest.
Alphonso Jackson’s resignation gives President Bush the opportunity to appoint a new HUD secretary who is capable of dealing with the devastating consequences of the housing crisis and the mortgage meltdown on the cities.
Whomever the president picks, the first job of any new HUD secretary will be to overcome and reverse HUD’s decades-long track record of incompetence and corruption.
That will be an extremely difficult task.