A slew of political appointees at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have been found to have no housing experience, but instead worked for President Donald Trump or secretary Ben Carson campaigns, The Washington Post reports.
The bombshell report unearthed 24 people “without evident housing policy experience” who were handed high paying jobs in the department — many of them earning raises in their first months on the job and making up to $155,000 a year. The news comes as the Trump administration is considering slashing program funding that directly impacts the real estate industry and affordable housing.
“The political hires were among at least 24 people without evident housing policy experience who were appointed to the best-paying political positions at HUD, an agency charged with serving the poorest Americans,” reporter Tracy Jan writes in the Post article. “They account for a third of the 70 HUD appointees at the upper ranks of the federal government, with salaries above $94,000, according to the Post review of agency records.”
Among the unqualified HUD appointees is Carson himself, who was a neurosurgeon with no previous housing experience before being tapped by Donald Trump to lead the agency, which has a $50 million budget and 8,000 employees. Carson encountered scrutiny and skepticism when it was announced he would lead the department in December 2016.
Officials at HUD did not respond to a request for comment.
During his confirmation hearings, Carson pivoted from some of his past comments on the perils of federal assistance and expressed support for HUD’s core responsibilities and homeownership-driven programs, which may have drummed up support among housing advocates and real estate professionals.
Since taking over, Carson has faced challenges in his role overseeing the U.S.’s housing efforts, including a lawsuit from state governments over the Fair Housing Act and overhauling the the country’s Section 8 rent voucher program. Proposed changes meant that rent could triple for some low-income families, but a more granular approach based on zip code did elicit positive reactions.
But Carson was not the only one to come from outside the industry with Republican party credentials. The Post revealed that 16 of the 24 Trump appointees had public records saying they’ve worked with the Carson or Trump Campaigns.
Among them are Andrew Hughes, who The Post reported earned $155,000 last December as a deputy chief of staff of the agency. With no previous housing experience, Hughes is a former HVAC salesperson and worked for the Carson and Trump campaigns.
Ex-event manager Mason Alexander, also with no relevant experience, made $107,435 a year working as a special assistant in 2017, and by September his salary was $131,767 after a 23-percent raise.
While there were instances of appointments who had real estate industry experience, there were gaps in their credentials. Barbara Gruson, a New York agent and previous Trump voter outreach organizer, confirmed to The Post that she didn’t have a bachelors degree.
As well, former mortgage loan officer Richard Youngblood, who helped the Trump campaign organize Ohio evangelicals, did not list a college degree on his resume. After being promoted to the director of HUD’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, he’s now making $119,489 a year.