HUD needs new leader to work with Congress
The department's secretary has resigned after accusations of cronyism.
Amid growing accusations of cronyism, President Bush had little choice this week but to give Housing Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson his walking papers. The Department of Housing and Urban Development needs new leadership to work with the Democratic Congress in addressing a mortgage crisis that has turned into a crippling element of the economic downturn.
Jackson, a longtime Bush friend and a prominent black conservative, announced his resignation after departing the White House, which has been turning to HUD's Federal Housing Administration to deal with contagious foreclosures. Jackson had undergone criticism weeks after his confirmation as housing secretary in 2004, calling poverty "a state of mind, not a condition."
"Jackson later was accused of steering hundreds of thousands of dollars to friends for work at the Virgin Islands housing authority and reconstruction in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The Justice Department and HUD's inspector general are focusing their investigations on accusations that Jackson helped a friend get construction work at New Orleans.
Investigators are investigating whether Jackson tried to improperly punish the Philadelphia Housing Authority for refusing to turn over a $2 million property to a Jackson friend.
A new program begun last summer has helped more than 130,000 vulnerable homeowners refinance high-cost mortgages, but critics have called the eligibility rules too narrow to have much effect. Jackson's departure is "probably a good thing for the agency," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. "There have been lots of problems, and they're obviously a distraction."
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