Government Lending

HUD finally confronts decades of staffing shortages

Secretary Fudge said in March that the agency was "thousands of people short"


The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it has filled another round of positions, as it confronts decades of staffing shortages.

“These talented and diverse individuals join HUD ready to deliver results for the American people by tackling our nation’s housing challenges to build a stronger, more equitable America,” the agency said in a press release.

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge assumed the top post at the agency at a time when it was already battling long-term and increasingly dire staff shortages.

A 2018 HUD Inspector General report found that “constant turnover and extended vacancies” had hobbled the agency’s management and business functions. “HUD could not fill essential positions with officials who stayed long enough to implement a vision and effect sustained positive changes,” the report’s authors concluded.

Staffing levels at the agency had been on the decline for nearly 30 years. From 1991 until 2018, HUD’s staffing fell by more than 49%, the report said. From 2008 to 2017, HUD lost 18.5% of its full-time permanent staff, despite staffing levels increasing 11% government-wide during the same period. Not surprisingly, HUD suffered a staffing loss greater than any other cabinet-level department during that time. 

In the years following the report, there was little sign that the agency would invest in staffing. In March, David Dworkin, the president of the National Housing Conference, told Politico that the agency’s “ranks have been gutted, morale has never been lower, and the challenges to HUD’s constituents have never been higher.”

Responding to those remarks in March, Fudge said she had taken the staffing shortages up with President Biden. The agency was “thousands of people short,” Fudge said, and while she said the existing staff was outstanding, they were “under-resourced, understaffed, and overworked.”

“But we are going to make some major changes and very quickly,” said Fudge. Since then, HUD announced it has filled 19 positions. The announcement follows two earlier rounds of appointments at the agency in January and February.

In late June, the Biden administration also announced two high-level appointments to the agency. It selected Julia Gordon to be HUD’s federal housing commissioner, where she would lead the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The announcement came hours after the announcement of current Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Acting Director David Uejio’s nomination for HUD assistant secretary. Both of those nominations await confirmation in the U.S. Senate.

Many of the diverse cohort of the latest round of HUD appointees are former Clinton-era and Obama-era staffers. Some of them worked at HUD during those administrations. Several worked for the Biden campaign or played roles in Democratic Senate campaigns.

The appointees include: Victoria Brown, deputy chief of staff for HUD’s Office of the Secretary, who was previously senior director at Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit housing finance organization; David Gonzalez Rice, special assistant for housing and services for HUD’s Office of the Secretary, who was previously director of technical assistance and capacity building at the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness; Mikaela Gerwin, special assistant and briefing book coordinator for HUD’s Office of the Secretary, who was previously project and policy coordinator for Health Care for All and field coordinator for the Democratic National Committee in Georgia and Colorado; Caitlin Grady, director of scheduling for HUD’s Office of Administration, who was previously a legislative aide for St. Paul City Council member Chris Tolbert; Ethan Handelman, the deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Multifamily Housing Programs at the FHA, was previously a senior policy analyst at the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Derrick Harkins, director of HUD’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, was previously national director of interfaith outreach at the Democratic National Committee; Camren Harris, congressional relations specialist for HUD’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, was a congressional staffer, and briefly a legislative intern for then-Congresswoman Fudge in 2015; Julienne Joseph the deputy assistant secretary for the FHA’s Office of Single Family Housing, was previously associate director of government housing programs & member engagement at the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Nicole Lindler, senior advisor for intergovernmental relations for HUD’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, was previously a policy advisor for San Francisco Mayor London Breed; Hang Liu, director of speechwriting for HUD’s Office of Public Affairs, was previously a speechwriter at HUD during the Obama administration, a media writer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and director of speechwriting for the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. Most recently, Liu was the director of West Wing Writers, a communications firm founded by former Clinton and Obama administration speechwriters.

Garrett McDaniel, director of executive scheduling and operations at HUD’s Office of Administration, was CEO and founder of Sinew Solutions, a political consulting firm; Gina Metrakas, chief operations officer for HUD’s Office of the Deputy Secretary, was previously interim director of outreach and peer learning at NYU Furman Center; Beth Niblock, now HUD’s chief information officer, was previously CIO and chief of homeland security and emergency management for the city of Detroit, Michigan.

Kera Package, special assistant for HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development, was previously regional organizing director for the Georgia Democratic Party, and was an organizer for Biden’s presidential campaign; Douglas Rice, special policy advisor for HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing, was previously a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank; Lacey Janet Rose, director of strategic communications for HUD’s Office of Public Affairs, was previously director of marketing and communications for Clear Ballot Group.

Other appointees include Patrice D. Taylor, deputy chief of staff for HUD’s Office of the Secretary; Addie Whisenant, assistant secretary for HUD’s Office of Public Affairs, who was previously the White House director of African American media and press secretary for HUD during the Obama administration; and Alan Williams, deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental relations for HUD’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations. Williams was previously a Tallahassee congressman and chair of the Florida legislative black caucus, and most recently a consultant at lobbying firm Meenan P.A.

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