New Head for HUD, But Questions Linger About Former Chief

The rumors were true: President Bush today nominated the head of the Small Business Administration, Steve
Preston, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban

And the media had a ton to say about it: The Associated Press, New York Times and Bloomberg all covered the news almost as soon as it broke.

John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, also reacted quickly to the news.

"I’ve worked with Steven Preston as the SBA Administrator for almost two years now and I’ll be sorry to see him go," Kerry said in a statement. "Mr. Preston inherited an agency in disarray, and he’s worked hard to right its course and to improve relationships with Congress. We may have some differences on policy, but he’s always been professional, responsive, and dedicated to the mission."

But what about former HUD chief Alphonso R. Jackson?

Jackson stepped down voluntarily in March amid allegations he had used favoritism in his position.

The New York Times reports that an Atlanta developer–whose company has paid Jackson more than $250,000 in fees since 2001 for work, which the company’s lawyer says he did before joining the government–received a $127 million contract in 2007 as part
of a joint venture to rebuild a New Orleans public housing project.

So Jackson is out; a new chief is in. But what’s next?

Jackson is planning "a few months of rest and relaxation," according to a HUD spokesman. The federal government, on the other hand, is planning to investigate Jackson.

And we’ll be watching to see what it finds. With the current state of housing–not good–it’s more important than ever that answers to questions of possible deal-cutting and favoritism charges be found quickly.

HUD has taken on a bigger role as the slump continued–so we need it to be working up to its fullest potential. And we need it to keep doing more.

Let’s hope Preston is up for the challenge…