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An Open Letter to Dr. Ben Carson

There are a lot of great people who work at HUD. There has been a lot of thought in recent years about how HUD can work effectively within various housing markets. And there is always room for improvement, especially by giving state housing agencies more flexibility in administering HUD programs and initiatives. These are the main points that incoming HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson should keep in mind as he takes over the nation's housing agency, according to Deborah VanAmerongen, senior policy advisor for Nixon Peabody.

VanAmerongen penned an open letter to Dr. Carson, which was published in Affordable Housing Finance, an industry publication. The former commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), who was also previously head of Multi-Family Housing in HUD’s New York/New Jersey office (now replaced by the Northeast Regional Office), routinely works with HUD and HCR officials on behalf of clients to advance complicated development and preservation deals.

“One thing that many of those (HUD) staff have spent a tremendous amount of time and attention on, in recent years particularly, is making HUD programs better serve the needs of housing markets. HUD is not a singular player in the housing market and often serves in a collaborative and/or supporting role with other actors who may be the primary drivers of what is happening 'on the ground' in housing markets,” she wrote in the letter.

Real estate deals that include affordable housing can be wildly complicated and include multiple funding sources, sometimes where HUD is involved but not in the lead. “HUD can be overreaching and make extra work for state and local administrators. While exercising oversight is of course appropriate, the time and effort necessary to participate in and respond to HUD reviews can be overwhelming for agencies that are already stretched thin in terms of staff and resources,” she wrote. “HUD also makes things more difficult for itself, and challenging for those who it is collaborating with, by being more involved in the minutiae of the transaction when in fact they are just playing a supporting role.”

VanAmerongen encouraged Dr. Carson to talk with the many practitioners and stakeholders that have worked with HUD over many years in the hope of finding a positive way of advancing the agency's mission.

Contact: John Broderick, jbroderick@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8835