Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Sorry Mess That Is Alphonso Jackson's HUD

by Tanta on 4/13/2008 08:50:00 AM

A long piece from the Washington Post, which I recommend reading in its entirety.

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."

He pushed for legislation that would make it easier for federally backed lenders to make mortgage loans to risky borrowers who put less money down. He issued a rule that was criticized by law enforcement authorities because it could increase the difficulty of detecting and proving mortgage fraud.

As Jackson leaves office this week, much of the attention on his tenure has been focused on investigations into whether his agency directed housing contracts to his friends and political allies. But critics say an equally significant legacy of his four years as the nation's top housing officer was gross inattention to the looming housing crisis. . . .

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.

"When Congress calls up and asks us, we'll give them advice," he said. "You have 534 massive egos up there, so unless they ask you, you don't volunteer anything."

HUD spokesperson D.J. Nordquist defended Jackson's record in pushing for more flexibility in government-backed loans. "Secretary Jackson is a big believer in the U.S. housing market and won't apologize for saying so," Nordquist said. . . .
I once opined that it would take Armageddon to get Jackson's attention. It turns out I was wrong; all it took was a shrimp buffet.

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