Ben Carson's top deputy at HUD resigns

WASHINGTON — The HUD official considered by many to be crucial to both the agency's smooth operation and to Puerto Rico recovery efforts resigned Monday and will transition out of the role in January.

As deputy secretary of HUD, Pam Patenaude ran operations at the $50 billion agency. Current and former HUD officials and low-income housing advocates all described the HUD veteran as instrumental to the functioning of the federal housing agency.

Some said she and not HUD Secretary Ben Carson "ran the agency." A HUD spokesperson pushed back sharply on that characterization.

"This morning I informed Secretary Carson of my decision to leave HUD in the new year," Patenaude tweeted in a statement. "Serving at HUD as Deputy Secretary has been the highlight of my 35-year career in housing."

"It has been an honor to serve President Trump and Secretary Carson and I am deeply grateful to both for this opportunity. Thank you to my HUD family and fellow 'housers' for helping Americans access decent, safe and affordable housing."

Carson said in a statement, "On behalf of a grateful agency, and the families and communities we serve, I want to thank her for her tremendous contributions to advancing HUD's mission. ... She is a true public servant, and I wish her well as she returns to private life in New Hampshire."

11 PHOTOS
Ben Carson through the years
See Gallery
Ben Carson through the years
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 12: (JAPAN OUT) (VIDEO CAPTURE) In this image from video Dr. Ben Carson talks about his life and education August 12, 2001 in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Carson was profiled for a CNN program called 'America's Best: Science and Medicine,' for his preeminence in the field of neurosurgery. (Photo by CNN via Getty Images)
Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, Ben Carson, Ralph Abernathy and Levy Watkins at Johns Hopkins University during a celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, Baltimore, Maryland, 1980. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
Darius Rucker, Candy Carson and Dr. Ben Carson M.D., president and co-founder of Carson Scholars Fund (Photo by Louis Myrie/WireImage)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson is interviewed during a live streaming Web-A-Thon with Wake Up America September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson speaks as the keynote speaker at the Wake Up America gala Event September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson (C) chats with guests after a live streaming Web-A-Thon with Wake Up America September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
US conservative Ben Carson is surrounded by supporters as he waits to be interviewed at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington,DC on February 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: Ben Carson, former neurosurgeon, addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 26, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. Carson is the author of 'One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save Americas Future' and 'America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great'. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US conservative Ben Carson addresses the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, DC on February 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08: Ben Carson attends the National Action Network (NAN) national convention at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel on April 8, 2015 in New York City. The network, founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991 is hosting various politicians, organizers and religious leaders to talk about the nation's most pressing issues. The conservative Carson is widely rumored to be considering a GOP presidential run in 2016. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - MAY 4: Republican Dr. Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, speaks as he officially announces his candidacy for President of the United States at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts May 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Carson was scheduled to travel today to Iowa, but changed his plans when his mother became critically ill. He now will be traveling to Dallas instead to be with his mother Sonya. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

On background, a senior HUD official said that Federal Housing Administration Commissioner Brian Montgomery will serve as acting deputy secretary.

The senior HUD official added, "The department and those we serve are in good hands, we have a very deep bench of political and career employees with decades of relevant experience. Our efforts to increase the supply of housing, end homelessness, enforce fair housing laws, respond to disasters, improve the fiscal condition of HUD and ensure Americans have access to safe, sanitary, and decent housing will continue unabated."

Immediate reaction from the real estate and public housing community was strong. "@HUDDepSec Pam Patenaude has resigned. This is a loss for @HUDgov and for those in need of safe and affordable housing," tweeted Michael Novogradac, whose firm Novogradac and Company specializes in affordable housing and community development.

Adrienne Todman, CEO of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, called the resignation a "tremendous loss to the agency."

The head of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Diane Yentel, also characterized Patenaude's departure as a major loss, saying Patenaude's housing strengths held the agency together and "offset Secretary Carson's weaknesses on housing."

Yentel wrote in an email to NBC News, "Pam advanced some helpful policies, particularly around disaster housing recovery and, as importantly, stopped many harmful proposals from moving forward. With her gone, others in the administration may have a better chance of advancing their harmful agenda of work requirements, time limits and funding cuts to critical programs."

"I find the news disappointing as in fact she was one of the few [political appointees] in the administration with some level of sanity," said former HUD official Gustavo Velasquez who worked under the Obama administration.

Patenaude's exit is significant for Puerto Rico, where she managed the effort to distribute rebuilding funds. HUD plays a major role in doling out funds for post-disaster recovery following Hurricane Maria advocates are and concerned about who would step in for Patenaude. The nonvoting U.S. House representative for Puerto Rico, Jennifer González-Colón, tweeted, "We will miss having this direct experience and knowledge especially at a time when we badly need to speed up the process to get those funds where and to whom they need to get."

23 PHOTOS
Puerto Rico housing crisis
See Gallery
Puerto Rico housing crisis
Chickens stand at the entrance to a house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
People gather to chat outside a mini-market that uses electricity from a generator, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 12, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A house partially destroyed by hurricane Maria and illuminated with electricity from a generator stands in the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 13, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
David Lopez walks out of his house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Karla Gerrido works on her computer in front of a fan that works with electricity from a generator, at her house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Miguel Rosario Lopez watches a television that works using electricity from a generator, while his wife Milagros Jimenez walks through their house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Chickens walk through a house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Wanda Ramos looks out from the house of her husband's family where she is living after her house was totally destroyed by hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 12, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Itzaida Planas walks to the house of a neighbour, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A car drives down a street during the night at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 13, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Franco Deaza (L) carries a water container into his family's house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Samuel Vasquez rebuilds his house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, while his wife Ysamar Figueroa looks on, whilst carrying their son Saniel, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Houses damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Maria stand at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Carlos Ventura carries a corrugated metal sheet to be used for a ceiling, while he helps a neighbour to rebuild her house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Milagros Jimenez helps her husband to rebuild their house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Joe Quirindongo tries to repair a makeshift tent where he keeps some belongings at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Yeriel Cruz, 4, looks out of the window of his family house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Milagros Jimenez poses for a picture at her house, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Hector Martinez gives cookies to his dog at the house of his girlfriend Maria Vega Lastra, which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 11, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Houses partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria are seen at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Jorge Salgado poses for a picture next to a house he built with parts of his house, which was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 12, 2017. Salgado said: "I lost everything, but we have to keep living". Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A woman washes her car in front of houses which were partially destroyed by Hurricane Maria, at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A handwritten address sign is attached to a post on a street at the squatter community of Villa Hugo in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2017. Villa Hugo is a settlement initially formed by people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"The entire nation loses one its finest, most transparent and passionate public servants," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said via Twitter. "On behalf of everyone in Puerto Rico, I want to thank you for your friendship, tireless work, commitment and guidance."

Island officials considered Patenaude a key liaison between the agency and Puerto Rico — especially after HUD approved a total of $20 billion in aid to help the commonwealth rebuild its infrastructure after Hurricane Maria.

According to Puerto Rico's leading newspaper, however, 15 months after the hurricane "not a single cent has been disbursed." Puerto Rico's Housing Dept. confirmed to NBC News that the money had not been received. Island officials have to submit a series of plans that outline how they plan to use the money and await federal approval. This process has significantly delayed the funds' disbursement. So far, Puerto Rico has not received any of the already-allocated money.

During her time as HUD deputy secretary, Patenaude visited Puerto Rico numerous times, including the hard-hit town of Canóvanas, where she announced HUD's $18.5 billion grant to Puerto Rico back in May. This allocation of funds is the largest single amount of disaster recovery assistance awarded in the agency's history.

"As Puerto Ricans, we will always be in debt to you for your sincere efforts to help us rebuilt our Island," said Fernando Gil Enseñat, Puerto Rico's housing secretary during a press conference Monday.

Fair housing advocates are also disappointed by the news. "I do know that she told me, to my face, that she was completely committed to fair housing," said Lisa Rice, president/CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. "She pushed HUD's leadership on fair housing, recognizing they did not come with that expertise. It will not be easy to find someone to replace her."

Patenaude's name had originally circulated as a possible HUD secretary given her more than 20 years of experience in senior housing roles, but the job instead went to Carson, the high-profile surgeon and former presidential candidate. Patenaude served in the Bush administration in multiple senior leadership roles at HUD. Her tenure at President Trump's HUD was just over a year since she was confirmed in September 2017.

Patenaude is known as a strong Trump supporter. Her daughter Megan Patenaude serves as a scheduler/deputy assistant to Vice President Pence.

Patenaude resigned the same day a new homelessness assessment by HUD shows national homeless figures have edged up .03 percent, the second year in a row it has increased after seven years of declines.

The new numbers in the agency's homelessness report were hailed as a success in a press release by Secretary Carson. "Our state and local partners are increasingly focused on finding lasting solutions to homelessness even as the struggle against the headwinds of rising rents," said Carson. "Much progress is being made and much work remains to be done but I have great hope that communities all across our nation are intent on preventing and ending homelessness."

A bright spot for the agency has been the specific ongoing success in reducing veteran homelessness. Monday's report found that "homelessness among veterans fell 5.4 percent and homelessness experienced by families with children declined 2.7 percent nationwide since 2017."

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.