As HUD Chief, Cuomo Earns a Mixed Score
By DAVID M. HALBFINGER and MICHAEL POWELLAs Andrew M. Cuomo campaigns for governor, he points to his leadership of the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration as proof he possesses the ability and vision needed to lead New York out of its fiscal and political swamps.
Mr. Cuomo was housing secretary at a critical moment for the nation, just as its subprime mortgage fever was beginning to spike. It was during his tenure that the banking industry began to embrace predatory loans, and these creations led to a housing bubble that badly damaged America’s banks and nearly toppled its financial system.
An examination of Mr. Cuomo’s tenure atop the agency shows he was quick to warn about Wall Street’s dangerous hunger for predatory subprime loans — generally more expensive mortgages sold to people with poor credit. He counseled caution when many influential players, including the Federal Reserve and Congress, resisted any suggestion that they slow the country’s stampede to home ownership.
He also called attention to a pernicious mortgage-broker incentive payment that drove up interest rates for borrowers — secretly, in many cases — and that helped put many home buyers into loans they later found they could not afford.
And, in an effort to reverse decades of discrimination against blacks and Latinos, Mr. Cuomo pushed the government-sponsored banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to buy more home loans taken out by poor and working-class borrowers.