Senate Banking Committee Holds Hearing to Consider Trump Nominees for Key HUD Positions

The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing July 18 to consider three Trump Administration nominees for key positions at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Paul Compton, to be General Counsel; Anna Farias, to be Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity; and Neal Rackleff, to be Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development.

Compton is a partner in the law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP and serves as chairman of its finance committee. He has been with the firm since 1989 after graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Farias is currently the chair of the Board of Regents at Texas Woman’s University. From 2001 to 2008, she served in a variety of roles at HUD including: Senior Counsel to former Secretary Mel Martinez; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Initiatives; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Grant Programs (CDBG); and Director for the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Rackleff is currently a partner at Locke Lord LLP, where he focuses on community and economic development, affordable housing, and inner-city revitalization. He previously served as Director of the City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department.

Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) began the questions for the HUD nominees by asking Farias if she supported the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule and would commit to implementing it. Farias stated that while she will "review the concerns" about the "new rule," she will work to implement AFFH.

Housing Subcommittee Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) followed Brown’s line of questioning by asking Farias to reaffirm her commitment to implementing AFFH and asking Compton if he would be committed to AFFH. Both Farias and Compton replied they were committed to implementing AFFH.

Tom Cotton (R-AR) also focused his questioning on AFFH. Cotton said that he, along with twenty Senators and Representatives, sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson asking him to rescind AFFH because it is a "gross social engineering" policy that "imposes nationwide zoning standards on communities." He asked Compton to provide his thoughts on AFFH. Compton responded that while the rule itself is not very long and is based on following the "spirit" of the Fair Housing Act, "the promulgating releases" of the rule are very complex. Compton said that the initial implementation of AFFH is critical to determining whether the rule is viable.

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) concentrated her questions on the affordable housing crisis and the $6 billion funding cut proposed for HUD in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget. Warren asked Rackleff, who had stated that he supports the Administration’s proposed Budget, how he plans to run HUD’s affordable housing programs with 60 percent fewer funds. Rackleff responded, "Whatever resources are afforded to me by the Administration and by Congress, I will use wisely. We have faced significant cuts at the city of Houston in some of the very same funding sources, and it has been difficult, but we will find ways to help those that we can." Warren pushed back, saying that during his time as the Director of the Houston Housing and Community Development Department, the city of Housing received $100 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)—a program that would no longer exist under the Administration’s proposed budget. Rackleff responded by stating that most of the new affordable housing developed in America is financed with"tax credit equity through the Low Income [Housing] Tax Credit Program." He said he is not especially concerned with what program the funding for affordable housing comes under because he is confident HUD will have the necessary funds to continue its mission.

Menendez also questioned Rackleff about programs the Administration has proposed to cut. He asked Rackleff whether his department in Houston used CDBG and the HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME) funding to help build and revitalize affordable housing units. After Rackleff answered affirmatively, Menendez asked him if he disagreed with the statement that "CDBG and HOME have not demonstrated a notable impact on communities." Rackleff responded that, "in Houston, we did a great job with those funds."

Mike Rounds (R-SD) acknowledged Rackleff’s intent to work effectively and efficiently with whatever funds were provided to HUD. Rounds then underlined the point that Congress, not the White House, would determine HUD’s funding levels.

The hearing also covered three additional nominees: Richard Ashooh, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration; Elizabeth Erin Walsh, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service; and Christopher Campbell, to be Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Financial Institutions.

The Committee has scheduled an executive session on July 25 to vote on the nominees featured at Tuesday’s hearing.

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