Update, 6/26/17: Lynne Patton was officially named the head of HUD’s Region II, and according to the New York Times, begins this week. According to the paper, Patton will soon “release a 10-point plan for the region that would include how New York and New Jersey could decrease veteran homelessness and increase homeownership rates by selling vacant properties owned by the department.”
Update, 6/19/17: The Trump administration has since denied that Lynne Patton will be heading up HUD’s Region II, with a spokesperson for the agency telling WNYC that “the position is currently vacant.” The retreat came after several New York City officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, expressed confusion and, at times, disdain over the pick. (City Council member Jumaane Williams released a pointed statement, calling the choice “another sorry, and potentially dangerous, appointment” from Trump’s administration.)
The Trump administration this week announced its pick to head the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Region II, which counts the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) among its jurisdiction. But as the New York Daily News notes, the woman appointed to the job, Lynne Patton, has “zero housing experience.”
She does, however, have nearly a decade’s worth of experience working for the Trump family, first as an event planner, and most recently as a “senior advisor and family liaison” for the Trump campaign. As the Daily News notes, she helped plan Eric Trump’s 2014 wedding and until recently helped run Eric Trump’s eponymous charity, which is currently being investigated by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
HUD Region 2 encompasses both New York and New Jersey and, in New York City alone, more than 400,000 people live in federally funded public housing through NYCHA, which is the largest public housing program in the country. (It makes up about 8 percent of all rental housing in NYC.)
Per the Daily News report, “nearly 70% of NYCHA's operational budget and 100% of its capital repair budget” comes from HUD. Earlier this year, the Trump administration cut that funding by $35 million, a figure that could eventually grow to $340 million. Many NYCHA buildings, meanwhile, are in dire need of repairs—to the tune of $17 billion, per the agency’s latest fact sheet.
In a statement to Curbed, NYCHA chair and CEO Shola Olatoye had this to say about Patton’s appointment:
“We look forward to working closely with the new HUD Region II Director as we continue to provide and improve housing for 600,000 New Yorkers. NYCHA's role in this city is vital in housing the City’s workforce: teachers, police officers, hospital workers, and civil servants. We hope Director Patton will continue HUD’s commitment to public housing and Section 8 as we strive to provide safe, clean and connected communities for New York City.”
In her role at HUD, Patton will be responsible for overseeing funding for public housing—including NYCHA—along with Section 8 vouchers, grant programs, and other crucial resources for hundreds of thousands of people. She’ll work under HUD secretary Ben Carson, whose background is similarly lacking in any professional housing experience. She has, however, backed up Carson’s “tough love” philosophy in regards to social housing programs, recently tweeting that “You can make life too comfortable for anyone—rich or poor—and when you do, it’s a disservice.”
Update, 1 p.m.: Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on Patton’s appointment during his weekly chat on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, saying that it was “surprising to say the least.” De Blasio acknowledged that his administration will try to work with both Patton and Carson to find common ground and help the New Yorkers who are affected by HUD cuts. He continued:
“But I think the real action will be on the ground not only in New York City but all over the country trying to change these policies in this fight over the budget up through September, I’m going to be working with mayors all over the country—Democrats and Republicans alike, by the way—who think the cuts to HUD would be horrible for their communities. … I’ll say to her, ‘Help us preserve the funding. Help us make sure that all the things that all the things HUD does now are streamlined and helpful to the residents of public housing and to all the other people who need affordable housing.’ There’s lots of ways that administrators at HUD could help make our work easier and faster. I’ll try my best to prevail upon her.”