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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent separate letters to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson and Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Inspector General Mark Bialek expressing concern that Eric Blankenstein, who has a history of racist writings, has been hired at HUD in a position with authority over the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), according to Warren’s Senate office.
FHA facilitates more than half of the purchase money mortgage loans to Black and Latino borrowers.
In 2018, while Blankenstein was serving as the policy associate director in charge of the division at the CFPB that is responsible for enforcing the country’s fair lending laws, reports revealed that Blankenstein had previously written a blog expressing overtly racist views.
Specifically, among other troubling statements, Blankenstein used a series of racial slurs, described efforts by the University of Virginia to impose harsher penalties for acts of racial intolerance as “racial idiocy” and described the majority of hate-crimes as “hoaxes.”
Warren–who not only is one of 25 Democrats running for president but prior to joining the Senate helped first established the CFPB–called for Blankenstein to be fired at the CFPB given these troubling statements, and last month, Blankenstein resigned and left the CFPB.
At the time, Inspector General Bialek opened an investigation into Blankenstein’s racist writings, and Warren requests an update on the status of that investigation in her Monday letter:
“I am eager to see the results of your report, given the impact that a person in Mr. Blankenstein’s position could have on the availability of mortgage credit to communities of color,” Warren wrote in her letter to Bialek.
The gap between the white and black homeownership rate is larger today than it was when housing discrimination was legal and the FHA can and should play a role in reversing that trend, Warren said. The FHA plays an outsized role in facilitating homeownership in communities of color. Changes in policy or legal interpretation, however similar to those Blankenstein made at the CFPB, could rip away mortgage credit from these already underserved communities, Warren added in a statement outlining the situation.
Just as Blankenstein’s racist views disqualified him from overseeing the enforcement of lending discrimination law at the CFPB, his views also disqualify him from working at HUD — an agency with a mission that includes, “build(ing) inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.”
HUD is supposed to achieve this goal in a number of ways, including by enforcing the Fair Housing Act, by distributing government housing and infrastructure funds, and by promoting sustainable homeownership — especially for first-time underserved homebuyers. His troubling views suggest that he will be unable to fulfill core parts of HUD’s mission, including fighting housing discrimination and closing the homeownership gap between white borrowers and borrowers of color, Warren asserted.
“Our country is currently in the midst of a housing crisis that disproportionately affects people of color. It is imperative that HUD recognizes the importance of addressing this crisis not just in the policies it pursues but also in the people it hires,” wrote Senator Warren in her letter to Secretary Carson. “Mr. Blankenstein’s racist writings disqualify him from working at HUD(,) and I ask that you reconsider your decision to offer him a position in your department.”
The senator has requested responses to her letter and questions to address her concerns by July 5, 2019.