Carson, Patenaude Face Tough Questioning in Congress over Administration’s Proposed HUD Budget Cuts

President Trump’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 Budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) came under intense scrutiny from senators during committee hearings this week, as the HUD secretary and deputy secretary-designate defended the Budget at separate hearings.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies yesterday to discuss the Administration’s Budget. Nearly every Subcommittee member criticized the Administration’s proposal to reduce funding for HUD programs and terminate some, particularly the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-ME) told Carson that, for Republicans, CDBG should be a very appealing program as it allows communities to "tailor" federal funding to "meet their local needs."

Carson defended the Budget by arguing that HUD has to adopt a "mindset of doing more with less" and promote programs that support a path to self-sufficiency. Regarding CDBG, Carson contended that the program was an inefficient use of federal funding, noting that "HUD’s primary mission is to provide safe, affordable housing, with a special emphasis on those who are the most vulnerable." He said CDBG provides only 25 percent of its dollars for that purpose.

Carson also appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies this morning to testify again on the proposed Budget. We will report on this hearing soon.

Pamela Patenaude, the President’s nominee to serve as deputy secretary of HUD, also faced questions about the Administration’s Budget request for HUD during a hearing the Senate Banking Committee held on Tuesday to consider her nomination. Committee Democrats, while acknowledging Patenaude’s experience and qualifications, pressed her for her thoughts on the Administration’s proposed cuts to housing programs. In response to question from Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patenaude said that she supported Trump’s proposed Budget for HUD but stressed that she did not play a role in drafting it. Patenaude faced a similar line of questioning from Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), who asked if the proposed Budget would abandon the 11 million households who spend 50 percent or more of their income on housing.

Patenaude, whom Trump nominated in April to fill the second highest position at HUD, has vast experience in the housing industry in both the public and private sectors. Many housing industry and advocacy organizations, including NCSHA, have supported her nomination. NCSHA submitted a letter of recommendation to the Senate Banking Committee in support of Patenaude’s nomination. NCSHA has worked closely with Patenaude in the past during her time at HUD under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Terwilliger Center for Housing America’s Families, and while she was with the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.

The Senate Banking Committee has not yet announced when it will vote on Patenaude’s nomination.

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