By Sean Keenan
Despite a swirling rumor mill that had Atlantans thinking their mayor could be tapped to be President-elect Joe Biden’s housing and urban development secretary, it appears that Keisha Lance Bottoms will not claim that cabinet post.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the president-to-be would be appointing U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
There are still rumblings that Bottoms could be Biden’s pick to lead the Small Business Administration (SBA), which will be elevated to a cabinet-level position under the new administration.
Several Atlanta leaders had been rooting for Bottoms to get the HUD boss job, including Atlanta Housing CEO Eugene Jones, who told SaportaReport she’d be “perfect” for the role.
“She’s the only mayor I’ve known to be out front talking about affordable housing,” he said in an interview. He added that having an Atlantan in Washington would behoove the city in terms of getting federal funds for housing initiatives.
John O’Callaghan, the director of the nonprofit housing developer Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership also thought Bottoms “would be a great pick for HUD secretary,” he told Shelterforce.
He told the publication that Bottoms has made “great housing hires,” such as Atlanta’s chief housing officer Terri Lee, and that she would have progressed “the president’s agenda to fill racial equity and housing affordability gaps at scale.”
Georgia State University urban studies professor Dan Immergluck, though, had a different take. The longtime critic of the mayor’s affordable housing efforts, Immergluck told Shelterforce that Bottoms “had not been a strong leader on housing in Atlanta, despite her rhetoric.”
Essentially, he’s saying the mayor is all talk and no walk. “She pledged to spend $500 million in new, city dollars on affordable housing during her campaign,” he said. “Instead, she created an ‘affordable housing tracker’ website that claims all sorts of preexisting, mostly federal dollars toward that pledge. There has been next to no new city funding allocated to affordable housing.”
If Bottoms ultimately leaves to take a cabinet post in the Biden administration, Jones said Atlanta’s affordable housing programs would be just fine, thanks in part to the people she’s put in positions of leadership on the issue.
“We still have plenty of people to move affordable housing initiatives forward,” he said.
(Header image, via Maggie Lee: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at an Atlanta Press Club event)
Thank God for Dan Immergluck. You can always count on him to keep it real when it comes to the Atlanta housing scene.
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