HUD nominee Fudge has strong commitment and leadership skills, despite limited housing experience - Affordable Housing Online

HUD nominee Fudge has strong commitment and leadership skills, despite limited housing experience

By on January 8th, 2021

Tagged As: Editorials

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH). Modified photo by fudge.house.gov

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) was named by President-elect Biden as his nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Some have criticized Biden’s choice because Fudge has little experience with affordable housing, but she has strong professional credentials and leadership experience. Most importantly, she has long been a champion for racial equity, empowering women, and the welfare of children.

Prior Experience

Representative Fudge was elected to Congress in 2008. She is a senior member of the Agriculture Committee and has held leadership posts in other committees and caucuses. Her committee assignments reflect her commitment to child nutrition and well-being, racial justice and equity, and empowering working people, especially in communities of color.

Fudge has served on the Agriculture Committee since joining Congress. She is Chair of Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Nutrition and Oversight. The subcommittee oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps). Congresswoman Fudge has a passion for addressing child nutrition issues, and her leadership on this committee has helped save SNAP from drastic cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

Fudge also serves on the House Committee on Administration, where she is Chair of the Subcommittee on Elections. This subcommittee provides congressional oversight for enforcement of voting rights laws. It also provides oversight of efforts to address election tampering and fraud, like the Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. In addition, Representative Fudge is on the Committee on Education and Labor, where she serves on the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services.

When members of Congress share similar interests, they often form a caucus to promote their issues. These caucuses can be very influential when bills on their issues come up. Representative Fudge is a current member and former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Arts Caucus, and the Congressional Asian-Pacific Islander Caucus.

Warrensville Heights, OH seal.
Image by cityofwarrensville.com

Prior to election to Congress, Fudge was the first female and first Black Mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, an inner suburb of Cleveland. She helped turn the city’s finances around and led efforts to attract new businesses and jobs.

While working as Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Fudge was selected to fill Jones’ congressional seat after her untimely death. Fudge also previously worked in the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office as Director of Budget and Finance.

Congresswoman Fudge graduated from Ohio State University with a Business degree, and she got her law degree from Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Future Expectations

Fudge had many people pushing for her to be named Agriculture Secretary, since that is where most of her passion and experience lies. Although she has run a small city, and is an experienced congresswoman, she will have to learn a lot about HUD and its programs in a very short time.

Affordable housing advocates have been mostly supportive of Fudge’s nomination. She has excelled at every point in her career. She is a lawyer and also has a financial background. She has executive experience as a mayor, and is an experienced legislator in Congress. Being able to work with Congress will be critical if the Biden administration wants to achieve its ambitious housing goals.

Congresswoman Fudge does have some familiarity with programs for low-income renters. The Agriculture Committee not only oversees USDA nutrition and farm support programs. The committee also has oversight over USDA’s Rural Development mission area, which runs affordable housing programs for low-income households in rural areas.

Some critics have said that many see the HUD post as one set aside for minority candidates. It has also been seen as a spot for those with other goals, like Andrew Cuomo who went on to become Governor of New York. These critics also point out that the Agriculture post has mostly gone to white men. 

This argument is not really fair, and certainly does not say anything about how good a job Marcia Fudge can do as HUD Secretary. HUD programs are targeted to helping low-income renters and promoting the redevelopment of distressed communities. Historical patterns of racism and segregation mean that racial and ethnic minorities live in many of these communities. Having HUD leadership reflect the population served by the agency is not a bad thing.

Also, President-elect Biden has appointed a larger number of minorities and women to cabinet posts than anyone so far. This is a huge contrast with the current administration, where HUD Secretary Ben Carson is the only person of color in Trump’s cabinet.

Congresswoman Fudge hosts a town hall meeting in August, 2019. Photo by fudge.house.gov

Other critics have pointed out that managing a large federal bureaucracy is not the same as being mayor of a small suburban city. Fudge will face special management challenges too. After the ravages of the Trump administration, there is low morale and high staff turnover. 

Congresswoman Fudge has shown leadership at each point in her career. She not only has experience with Agriculture and nutrition issues, but she also has a commitment to workers’ interests through her membership on the House Education and Labor Committee. The Trump administration has worked to roll back employment protections for federal workers. It may be that Fudge’s commitment to both HUD’s mission and workers’ rights will help energize HUD staff to move forward with Biden’s housing agenda.

Probably the only serious critique is that Congresswoman Fudge does not have a lot of experience with affordable housing and HUD programs. There will be a steep learning curve as she works to get up to speed on all of HUD’s agencies and the programs that they run. As millions of low-income remain without jobs and face the looming threat of eviction or foreclosure, HUD will be an important agency in the early days of the Biden administration.

Fudge’s record on race and inequality has brought her support from fair housing advocates, and she is a lawyer that will take fair housing enforcement seriously. Her demonstrated success as a mayor and congresswoman shows she has the leadership skills to overcome big challenges. 

Leading housing experts will also be appointed to fill out the HUD management team. They will help speed the new Secretary’s learning curve, and help her implement Biden’s housing goals. National, state, and local housing experts have offered their support as Fudge takes the reins at HUD. Fudge also has a record of hiring very talented staff.

Although Congresswoman Fudge has limited housing experience, she has all the other qualities that can bring success leading HUD through these challenging times. President-elect Biden promised to expand resources for low-income renters, build thousands of new affordable apartments, and crack down of housing discrimination. Marcia Fudge’s history shows that she has a good chance of making that agenda come true.

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Chris Holden

Chris Holden, Affordable Housing Online's Senior Housing Analyst, has been in the affordable housing field for 25 years. Originally from Keene, New Hampshire, he has worked as a researcher, policy analyst, lender, trainer and real estate developer. He also taught political science at Keene State College. He is focused on making housing policies more accessible for low-income renters.