Politico is out with a story about potential Obama HUD Secretaries.
The story notes that, “In the recent past, the department has been sort of Cabinet stepchild, with its staff and resources cut and its mission muddled.”
That’s an understatement. HUD is an embarrassing backwater federal department. The last time it had any serious prominence and energy was when Jack Kemp was Secretary, and that energy was largely misdirected.
The names Politico cites as contenders for HUD Secretary fall into two categories: purely political appointments with little serious commitment to change such as Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Atlanta Housing Authority Director Renee Glover, and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.
Then there are those favored by the progressive housing community, namely: Nicolas Retsinas, director of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies; Bart Harvey, former chief executive of Enterprise Community Investment; and Sister Lillian Murphy, CEO of Mercy Housing, a national nonprofit housing organization.
I have also heard talk of former Laredo Mayor Saul Ramirez and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.
Regardless of who gets tapped to lead HUD, I for one am ready for someone to come in and undertake a radical restructuring. If the next HUD secretary cannot demonstrate the relevancy of housing through the fundamental realignment of HUD programs I wonder whether HUD should even survive as a cabinet agency. The challenge for HUD today is to show how housing can be used as an effective tool in overcoming poverty and to use housing and urban development programs not as pork barrels but as tools to bring about the integration of the poor into mainstream society.
Obama should put the next HUD Secretary on notice to use the powers of HUD to bring about real change in the lives of the poor or be ready to become known as the last Secretary of HUD.