Senate Confirms New HUD Chief
As expected, the Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed President Bush's nominee for housing secretary, moving Small Business Administration Administrator Steven Preston into the administration's pole position on the housing and mortgage market mess. Preston follows prior Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary Alphonso Jackson, who stepped down in late March amid controversy over favoritism and improper consideration in awarding HUD contracts. HW's sources had suggested when Preston was first nominated that his confirmation was likely to be smooth sailing. Preston will now lead the White House's involvement in crafting a housing bill that will reform oversight of both Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE), as well as provide up to $300 billion in refinancing authority to the Federal Housing Administration. In a press statement, President Bush called Preston a "strong leader" and praised his management skills. "He will aggressively work to ensure that the Department remains focused on its mission of making housing more affordable and helping Americans keep their homes," Bush said. "Steve is also a consensus builder who will build on our efforts to work with Congress on responsible legislation addressing our Nation’s housing policies." HW's sources on Capitol Hill said that Senate Democrats see Preston as "someone they can work with," signaling that the administration's oft-contentious stand versus Democrats in the housing mess may soon soften.