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U.S. Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge will step down this month

Marcia Fudge, the U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, testifies before the House Committee on Financial Services in January.
Jose Luis Magana
/
AP
Marcia Fudge, the U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, testifies before the House Committee on Financial Services in January.

Updated March 11, 2024 at 4:33 PM ET

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge says she's planning to retire this month, one of the few cabinet members to leave the Biden administration. She will return home to Ohio after nearly five decades of public service.

"The people HUD serves are those who are often left out and left behind," Fudge, who is 71, said in a statement. "These are my people. They serve as my motivation for everything we have been able to accomplish."

President Biden praised her work, saying, "She has been a strong voice for expanding efforts to build generational wealth through homeownership and lowering costs and promoting fairness for America's renters."

Fudge took the helm at HUD in 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated a shortage of affordable housing that had been decades in the making. The acute threat of eviction during the pandemic laid bare how unaffordable rent had become for millions of Americans. As newly remote workers moved out of cities and inflation crept up, the median monthly rent hit an all time high. At the same time, homelessness rates spiked to record levels.

In a call with reporters last week, Fudge laid out the agency accomplishments she's most proud of over her three years at HUD, including helping 1.5 million people buy homes for the first time. To that end, the agency allowed rental history to play a greater role in someone's credit score, and changed the way it evaluated student loan debt to make it easier to get a federally backed mortgage.

Fudge touted the agency's focus on helping Black and Hispanic renters become homeowners. And she noted that under her leadership, the agency awarded an additional 120,000 federal housing vouchers, the largest increase in two decades. Some vouchers were specifically to help people experiencing homelessness move quickly into shelter.

Fudge also took a strong stand against appraisal bias, and she made it easier for people to request a review if they believed an appraisal may have skewed lower because of their race.

Biden's cabinet has been remarkably stable, especially when compared with the volatility seen in the Trump White House. Fudge is only the second cabinet member to step down, afterLabor Secretary Marty Walsh. A third cabinet-level official,Eric Lander at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, also resigned.

Announcing her departure in an interview with USA Today, Fudge said the lack of affordable housing is not partisan. "It's an American issue," she said.

She said homelessness in a country as rich as the U.S. is a "tragedy," and lamented the chronic lack of funding for her agency, noting it needs more than $70 billion but was budgeted just over $3 billion. Unlike food and healthcare, housing assistance is not an entitlement, and only 1 in 4 people who qualify for a subsidy can actually get it.

"We're making incremental changes, but we need to make bigger changes and we need to make them faster,'' she told USA Today.

Fudge steps down March 22. White House deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton declined to comment on when the president would nominate a replacement.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.