Disclosure: I became an employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on July 1st, 1974 and departed to join FEMA on September 10th, 1979! During those years I worked on FIA issues [Federal Insurance Adminstration], FDAA issues [Federal Disaster Assistance Administration] and HUD/OIG issues. The first two components were transferred to FEMA by virtue of President Carter’s Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1978. I also helped in writing the delegations for the Secretary’s Mortgagee Review Board. My wife was employed part of that time by the US League of Savings Associations as their principal librarian.
I came to HUD from the US Treasury Department and IRS! Treasury in my time 1967-1974 was very competently run. I had taken several tax courses in Law School and loved the policy buried in the IRC. Stanley Surrey, a Harvard Law School tax prof and inventor of the concept of tax expenditures was a favorite legal academician of mine.
I was shocked on my arrival at HUD at how very few of the lawyers in HUD’s OGC understood how much housing policy was buried in the tax code. Treasury made more housing policy decisions daily than HUD in a month. Both were under the Banking Committees for both oversight and legislation.
So today I read the following:
Vicki Needham, The Hill, April 26, 2011A record number of renters from a wider range of income levels are spending more than half their incomes to pay for housing, according to a new report released on Tuesday. One in four renters, or 10.1 million households, spent more than half their pre-tax income on rent and utilities in 2009, while 26.2 percent spent between 30 percent and 50 percent, as incomes fell behind rising rental expenses, according to a report by Harvard University.
HUD really had almost no use for renters and did not concern themselves much with rental issues. Established in 1966 as a Cabinet level department, HUD has lost its key role on rental to the Nixon Administration Rent/Price/Pay freeze in 1971, a federal effort in which I participated. I am sure HUD was relieved to not have a major policy role in rent control. The large public housing units were designed not to house people but to profit the middlemen and women that hung like parasites over the programs, functions, and activities of HUD. Oddly I was in a unit called Regulatory Programs which administered statutes like RESPA and regulation of Manufactured Housing. Departing HUD Secretaries were always given bricks from demolished public housing units as a joke. Yet there were some very competent people in HUD OGC, OIG and programs but they had little power over policy.
I fault the Banking committees of Congress in part for the failure of HUD to fulfill its mandate of providing safe, decent, sanitary housing for all Americans. Now with estimates of up to 38% of all single family housing unoccupied and deteriorating HUD has been left powerless to protect that investment and allow that investment for full utilization. Housing policy is not just about the financing and who can get rich off of that basic necessity called a roof over you. But that role is denied HUD even today. The elimination of the Minimum Property Standards by FHA is one example of a terrible decision in its impacts.
Well Housing policy redesign is even now occurring to some extent at HUD and FHA, and FREDDIE MAC and FANNIE Mae, but more in the Treasury Department. And of course even more so in the various housing lobbying orgs. Mobility has been a US birth right but now with 30% of mortgages underwater and higher gas prices that sinew of the American economy–MOBILITY–is destroyed.