Senate Banking Committee Questions HUD Nominees about Harmful Proposals

The Senate Banking Committee on November 20 held a hearing for several individuals nominated for positions at HUD: Brian D. Montgomery for deputy secretary (see Memo 10/11), David C. Woll, Jr., for assistant secretary for the Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD), and John Bobbitt for assistant secretary for housing operations. Several members of the committee took the opportunity to ask the nominees, who currently serve in different positions at HUD, about a variety of agency actions under the Trump administration, including delaying disaster recovery resources and proposing to cut funding for programs, raise rents on low-income families, and weaken the Disparate Impact and Equal Access rules.

Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expressed his concerns about HUD’s recent proposed changes to the Disparate Impact rule (see Memo, 8/19) and forthcoming proposed changes to the Equal Access rule (see Memo, 5/28). Mr. Montgomery did not directly respond to Senator Brown’s concerns regarding the Disparate Impact rule, saying the process began before his time, but Mr. Woll stated that he detests discrimination and would not permit discrimination against transgender individuals seeking shelter. In response to a question from Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) regarding the potential impact of the Trump administration’s proposal to raise rents on low-income households, Mr. Montgomery promised, “No mass evictions will occur as long as I’m FHA commissioner, assistant secretary for housing,” while also saying that some measures to contain costs are needed.

Mr. Montgomery repeated this need for cost-containment in response to a question from Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), who asked how could HUD help address the affordable housing crisis while consistently proposing cuts to programs. Mr. Montgomery held up the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) as an example of a program to help meet housing needs. Senator Cortez Masto also asked him and Mr. Woll about their support for the national Housing Trust Fund. Mr. Montgomery stated that there should be more discussion about how to distribute the funding, whether by formula or based on greatest need; Mr. Woll expressed his support for the goals of the Housing Trust Fund.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) shifted the conversation to disaster recovery, highlighting his and Senator Todd Young’s (R-IN) bill, the “Reforming Disaster Recovery Act” (S. 2301, see Memo, 7/29 an article in this issue of Memo about House approval of H.R. 3702), which would codify the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program and provide important protections for low-income survivors. Mr. Woll agreed that authorizing CDBG-DR through this bill would be helpful for speeding up the disaster recovery process. Senator Schatz also asked about the recent report on homelessness from the White House Council of Economic Advisers that, among other troubling conclusions, implies that if shelters for people experiencing homelessness are too nice, people will choose to be houseless. Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Woll both stated that shelters are not luxurious, but they were unfamiliar with the particulars of the report.

Watch and learn more about the hearing at: