As readers of this blog are doubtless aware, NRDC is rightly very critical of the many wrongheaded appointments made by the Trump Administration. So it was a relief to learn about at least one appointee who is sorely needed at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—Pam Patenaude, the newly minted Deputy Secretary.
Ms. Patenaude has an impressive bio, having served as an Assistant Secretary at HUD under George W. Bush. After that stint, she was an activist for affordable homes as housing policy director at the Bipartisan Policy Center and President of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families.
Reading through columns she’s penned over the last few years is a revelation—she has been a tireless advocate, recognizing the nation faces an affordable housing crisis. And this has devastating consequences in cities such as Milwaukee, as movingly depicted by Matt Desmond in his prize-winning book Evicted.
To her credit, she tried to raise this in the Presidential election repeatedly, and in an op ed last year she sifted through both major Party platforms and found commonalities—barriers need to be lowered, such as city regulations that restrict housing supply as the Sightline Institute’s Alan Durning wrote about in a short but important book. And supply needs to be increased, something that policy can help drive.
During her tenure, in 2015 the Terwilliger Foundation also organized a New Hampshire summit for Presidential candidates to tee the issue up for the 2016 election. This moving video featuring struggling Granite Staters of all stripes from college students to seniors doubtless helped her make the case.
As a champion of boosting supply of affordable homes, it’s likely she will also support adequate funding of important resources such as the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund. And on the other hand reject foolish calls to cut the National Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which has de facto bloomed into the nation’s largest affordable housing supply program, and which Ms. Patenaude wrote about favorably here.
In short, Ms. Patenaude is seasoned, knowledgeable, able to work with Republicans and Democrats (all-too-rare in D.C. nowadays) and most importantly, a believer in the cause of affordable housing.
This is why groups such as Stewards for Affordable Housing for the Future and our Energy Efficiency for All partner the National Housing Trust view her appointment as reason to hope vis-à-vis performance at HUD. Which is a nice change of pace, because as has been pointed out, hilariously and alarmingly, Secretary Carson needs all the help he can get. Ms. Patenaude has a different, more hopeful opinion of his fitness for this important office, as evidenced by her letter endorsing the appointment in January (scroll down here).
I hope she’s right, and furthermore hope that from her new position she’s able to lead HUD in tackling our nation’s affordable housing crisis. And so do the nation’s millions of current and prospective home renters and buyers.