President Bush nominated Steven Preston as the replacement for outgoing Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson, in a press conference held Friday afternoon. The nomination comes at a critical time, as the Department of Housing and Urban Development is being asked by lawmakers and industry regulators to play an increasingly pivotal role in propping up ailing mortgage and housing markets amid the worst housing crunch in memory.
Preston is currently the head at the Small Business Adminstration, and will need to be confirmed by lawmakers in the Senate. Sources suggested to Housing Wire early Friday that Preston is not likely to face objections from Senate leaders over his appointment, although whether he has strong support or not is not yet fully known.
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Business & Entrepreneurship, signaled his early support for the nomination in a statement released Friday
"I've worked with Steven Preston as the SBA Administrator for almost two years now and I'll be sorry to see him go," Kerry said. "Mr. Preston inherited an agency in disarray, and he's worked hard to right its course and to improve relationships with Congress.
"We may have some differences on policy, but he's always been professional, responsive, and dedicated to the mission."
The change at the top of HUD comes as former chief Jackson faces a string of allegations accusing him of cronyism and improper consideration in awarding HUD contracts at the local level--all charges that Jackson, so far, has strongly denied.
The soon-to-be former housing secretary offered his resignation
to President Bush at the end of March, amid calls that he step down from numerous Senate Democrats, including Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Patty Murray (D-WA), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.
Preston was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2006 for his current charge at the SBA.