The White House announced on Friday that President Joe Biden has selected a series of new nominees for positions within the administration, including for Assistant Secretary for Housing, Federal Housing Commissioner (FHA Commissioner) as well as the appointment of the current Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to a position at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
These nominations arrive on the heels of new action on the part of FHA and HUD designed to further mitigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on both renters and homeowners, with a number of provisions that will have an effect on the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program and its borrowers.
FHA Commissioner nominee
For the key position of FHA Commissioner, the president has selected housing advocate Julia Gordon, who is currently serving as president of the National Community Stabilization Trust (NCST). NCST is a nonprofit organization dedicated to neighborhood revitalization and affordable homeownership through facilitating the rehabilitation of residential properties in underserved markets.
At NCST, Gordon’s specialty is in federal policy related to homeownership, housing finance and community development in addition to managing the organization’s programmatic work. Prior to her time at NCST, Gordon served as senior director of housing and consumer finance at the think tank Center for American Progress, as well as manager of the single-family policy team at the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).
Gordon has also previously served as senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, and worked in the civil legal aid sector and as a litigation associate and pro bono coordinator at the law firm of WilmerHale.
“Julia Gordon is a recognized policy expert on housing matters, and NRMLA strongly supports her nomination to be FHA Commissioner,” said Steve Irwin, president of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) when reached by RMD.
“Julia Gordon is the right person at the right time to lead the Federal Housing Administration,” said David M. Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference (NHC) in a statement about Gordon’s nomination. “As FHA Commissioner, she would bring an extraordinary level of leadership, integrity and experience to the job. She possesses a practical understanding of what communities need, how the mortgage business works, and why progressive housing policies must always be part of our nation’s economic strength and stability.”
Gordon’s prior perspectives on the reverse mortgage program are well-documented, as she specifically cited HECM program “struggles” as an impediment to FHA’s fiscal situation in 2013. However, in 2015 while serving at the Center for American Progress, Gordon praised changes handed down to the HECM program at the time in a congressional proceeding as directionally positive for FHA and for reverse mortgage borrowers.
Gordon’s nomination comes as HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge has recently discussed the need to shore up additional leadership positions at the Department, both at a White House press briefing in March and more recently during congressional hearings related to HUD’s fiscal year 2022 budget request. If confirmed, Gordon will be the first full-time FHA Commissioner since Dana Wade, the final FHA Commissioner confirmed during the Donald Trump administration and who has since gone on to work in the private sector.
Uejio: from CFPB to HUD
Interestingly, President Biden also nominated Dave Uejio – the current Acting Director of the CFPB – to the position of Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at HUD on Friday. Uejio, who has been serving as the interim head of the CFPB while full-time nominee Rohit Chopra awaits Senate confirmation, has been serving as a very active steward in Chopra’s stead, which is exactly what he promised upon initial assumption of his role.
During his time as Acting CFPB Director, Uejio has put mortgage servicers on notice, heightened the Bureau’s enforcement posture, rolled back regulatory relief for financial companies, vowed to “monitor” the reverse mortgage market for any potential servicing violations, has taken action against both forward and reverse mortgage lenders for what the agency described as “deceptive” practices, and has dedicated the Bureau to addressing issues which inordinately affect people of color and disadvantaged populations.
Prior to joining the CFPB and working in a variety of roles there before becoming Acting Director in January, his career in government goes back to 2006 where he served as a Presidential Management Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in human resources capacities at NIH, the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Uejio’s nomination for a post at HUD could indicate that the administration is preparing for the confirmation of Chopra to serve as the full-time CFPB Director. Chopra, who is currently serving as a Federal Trade Commissioner, has recently had his nomination held up over what appear to be partisan concerns related to the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans who serve on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Recently, Columbia University law professor and technology industry critic Lina Khan was confirmed as a new FTC Commissioner and President Biden appointed her as chairwoman, potentially alleviating some of the concerns the administration had about Chopra’s confirmation to lead the CFPB.