Although Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson cited personal reasons for resigning in April, his departure failed to dispel concerns about his conduct in office that led to ongoing ethics investigations by the HUD inspector general, a federal grand jury, and the Justice Department’s public integrity section.
President Bush has nominated and the Senate has confirmed Steven Preston, head of the Small Business Administration, to replace Jackson.
Jackson’s resignation came as congressional leaders called for his ouster amid allegations that he steered a federal contract toward a South Carolina acquaintance. No charges have been filed, and Jackson — who consistently enjoyed Bush’s support — has denied any wrongdoing. The congressional newspaper The Hill reported that Senators Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sent a letter to Bush in March, contending that Jackson could not effectively address the subprime mortgage slide.
He was also accused in a lawsuit alleging his reprisal against Philadelphia housing officials for reportedly blocking a land deal with a Bush supporter, according to CNN. And he has been under fire for his department’s handling of the Gulf housing shortage in Hurricane Katrina’s wake as well as his reticence to acknowledge the magnitude of the burgeoning mortgage crisis.
Jackson’s resignation also diverted attention from attempts to find a solution to a $2 billion shortfall in HUD’s Section 8 rental-voucher program, which could lead to many of the 1.3 million families housed by the program to lose their homes, according to some housing advocates. This year, Congress would have to budget $6.5 billion over the administration’s requested amount for housing and community development in order to avoid cuts in core programs for low-income families.