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Fudge Steps Down as Housing Secretary

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Fudge Steps Down as Housing Secretary

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Marcia L. Fudge, the secretary of housing and urban development, announced on Monday that she would resign this month after three years of presiding over seismic shifts in the housing market brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and changes in the economy.

Ms. Fudge, 71, a longtime congresswoman from Ohio, attributed her decision to a desire to spend more time with her 92-year-old mother and suggested that major policies were unlikely between now and the election anyway. But her departure undercut a plan by the White House to keep the president’s cabinet and senior team intact through the November balloting.

“Under Marcia’s transformational leadership, we have worked hard to lower housing costs and increase supply,” President Biden said in a statement. “Thanks to Secretary Fudge,” he added, “we’ve helped first-time home buyers and we are working to cut the cost of renting. And there are more housing units under construction right now than at any time in the last 50 years.”

Ms. Fudge is only the second of the original 15 cabinet members designated by law to leave under Mr. Biden, matching the lowest turnover rate in modern times. That is a sharp contrast to former President Donald J. Trump’s administration, when the cabinet was a virtual subway turnstile with secretaries coming and going through resignations and firings. Marty Walsh, Mr. Biden’s labor secretary, stepped down a year ago.

Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House chief of staff, had asked all remaining cabinet secretaries last fall to either commit to staying for the remainder of Mr. Biden’s term or move on right away so no major positions would be vacant during an election year. A White House official, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel issues, said Ms. Fudge made that commitment at the time but felt compelled to change her mind given her mother’s age.

Adrianne Todman, the deputy housing secretary, will take over the department as acting secretary once Ms. Fudge’s resignation becomes official on March 22, the White House said in the statement. At that point, with barely seven months left until November, it seems unlikely that a new nominee could be chosen, vetted and confirmed by the Senate before the election. Mr. Walsh’s designated successor has yet to be confirmed 13 months after he announced his resignation.

Ms. Fudge, a former mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, who served in the House from 2008 to 2021, said she planned to return to Ohio to be with her mother and other family members and had no plans to ever run for office again.

“It’s time to go home,” Ms. Fudge told USA Today. “I do believe strongly that I have done just about everything I could do at HUD for this administration as we go into this crazy, silly season of an election.”

In a statement, she said she made the decision to leave with “mixed emotions” but took pride in using her platform to help the disadvantaged. The first Black woman to lead the department in more than four decades, Ms. Fudge cited efforts to help families avoid foreclosure, make it easier for those with student loan debt to get federally backed mortgages, reduce insurance premiums for such mortgages and insure mortgages for three times as many Black borrowers and twice as many Hispanic borrowers as a proportion of volume.

“The people HUD serves are those who are often left out and left behind,” Ms. Fudge said. “These are my people. They serve as my motivation for everything we have been able to accomplish.”

Mr. Biden credited Ms. Fudge with reviving the department after what he characterized as the neglect of the Trump years. “When I took office, we inherited a broken housing system, with fair housing and civil rights protections badly dismantled under the prior administration,” he said.

“On Day 1,” he added, “Marcia got to work rebuilding the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and over the past three years she has been a strong voice for expanding efforts to build generational wealth through homeownership and lowering costs and promoting fairness for America’s renters.”

Housing costs have climbed even faster than inflation, posing a major challenge especially for younger Americans just starting out and hindering the efforts of large cities to grapple with the rising problem of homelessness. The cost of shelter increased an average of 6 percent last year, compared with an overall inflation rate of 3 percent.

“I know the cost of housing is critical to families nationwide,” Mr. Biden said on Monday in a speech to the National League of Cities in Washington. Now that inflation has fallen, he said mortgage rates should soon, too.

“But I’m not waiting,” he added. In his budget plan released on Monday, he said he was proposing a tax cut of roughly $400 a month for the next three years to help qualified home buyers “because every family deserves a place to call home, a place to have your American dreams come true.”

He said his plan would also help construct two million new units of housing and provide localities $8 billion to move unhoused people off the streets. “The bottom line is we have to build, build, build,” he said. “That’s how we bring housing costs down for good.”

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