Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Evil That Men Do: Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson

The guy in charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the "Housing Czar," if you wish, has quit. And if even a fraction of what the Washigton Post reports is correct... let's just say a lot is explained on the political econ side.

In late 2006, as economists warned of an imminent housing market collapse, housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson repeatedly insisted that the mounting wave of mortgage failures was a short-term "correction."


Jackson, who declined to be interviewed, will be remembered as a Cabinet secretary so committed to carrying out President Bush's goal of increasing homeownership that he encouraged policies that threatened to exacerbate the mortgage crisis, according to interviews with more than 30 current and former HUD officials and housing experts, and a review of numerous HUD documents and audits.

In speeches, he urged loosening some rules to spur more home buying and borrowing. "I'm convinced this spring we will see the market again begin to soar," Jackson said in a June 2007 speech at the National Press Club to kick off what HUD dubbed "National Homeownership Month." He also told the audience that he had no specific laws to recommend to prevent a repeat of the lending abuses that caused the mortgage crisis.


Jackson had insisted he would stay in office until the end of Bush's term. But last month, several Democratic senators who hold HUD's purse strings called for his resignation. He had refused to answer their questions about allegations that he was engaged in political favoritism and cronyism. A federal grand jury is investigating whether Jackson lied to Congress about his involvement in contracts and whether he steered millions of dollars in government work at the Virgin Islands and New Orleans housing authorities to his friends.

Read the whole thing here; the quotes above are just the tip of the indignation iceberg.

(HT to Tanta at Calculated Risk.)

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