Housing advocates are ecstatic about the appointment of former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros to be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Moreover, at least 11 of the 13 freshmen Democrats named to the House Banking Committee are viewed as strongly in favor of new housing and community development initiatives. Finally, the expected ascension of Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., to chair the housing subcommittee of the Senate banking panel and the continuation of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., as chairwoman of the housing-related subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee completes the circuit for those who seek more action in the housing area.
"We are delighted at these appointments," enthused John T. McEvoy, executive director of of the National Council of State Housing Agencies.
McEvoy, who cited several state housing commissioners as being under serious consideration for top HUD posts, said Cisneros is a charismatic political leader with broad practical experience on housing issues. In addittion, said McEvoy, Cisneros is a close confidant and adviser to President-elect Clinton, which should help in pressing housing initiatives as a priority.
Rupert Hayes, senior vice president of San Antonio-based North American Financial, a mortgage banking company, also praised the selection of Cisneros.
"Never in my lifetime has a person been chosen for HUD Secretary or even Federal Housing Commissioner who has had such hands-on experience with the problems faced by cities," with Hayes, who is a member of the Steering Committee and the Legislative Committee of the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Hayes also challenged rumors that there was tension between Cisneros and House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez, who also is from San Antonio.
"I have been present on numerous occasions when Cisneros has commented on his admiration for the chairman and his respect for the work Gonzalez has done for cities," he said.
Deepak Bhargava, Washington legislative director for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn), said the new House Banking Committee appointees will join with other housing advocates on the committee, including Gonzalez, "to provide a strong voice for community reinvestment."
While it is obvious there will be a stronger commitment to housing initiatives in Congress and the Executive Branch, it remains to be seen what that might entail. "It is important that housing be defined as part of any stimulus package," said Michael J. Ferrell, senior staff vice president and legislative counsel for the MBA. "Sure, we need roads and bridges. But those roads and bridges need to lead somewhere. Real estate has always been a major part of economic growth."
McEvoy said he expected to see at least a few state housing commissioners take key jobs at HUD in the Clinton Administration. In addition to Terrence R. Duvernay of Georgia, who has been previously mentioned, he cited Marvin Siflinger of Maine, Nick Retsinas of Rhode Island, Judy McFall of Maryland, Mark Hendrickson of Florida (who was Clinton's first housing commissioner in Arkansas), Ira Peppercorn of Indiana, Angelo Aponte of New York, Stephen Weatherford of Oklahoma and James Stretz of New Mexico.