What happens when a real estate mogul becomes president, proposes slashing the budget for housing aid, and appoints his son’s wedding planner to oversee public housing for New York and New Jersey? The residents of a massive Brooklyn housing complex known as Starrett City — as well as ethics watchdogs — are about to get more curious. That’s because Trump’s new budget would preserve incentives for privately owned properties offering subsidized housing, while Trump himself would profit off that arrangement.
Starrett City, the largest subsidized housing complex in the country, was built in the 1970s — Trump senior was one of the investors — and is starting to show its age. The Washington Post notes that while the landlord has kept up with some repairs, like replacing brick facades and water cooling pipes, enough keeps going wrong with the building that its HUD inspection scores have fallen dramatically in the past decade. According to New York Daily News, Starrett City’s ratings have gone down with every inspection (which occur every two years), earning more and more scrutiny from the federal government that has invested over $490 million in rent subsidies since 2013.
The complex is due for yet another inspection, but this time, Trump appointee Ben Carson is heading up HUD, and Lynne Patton — Eric Trump’s wedding planner, charity manager, and all around Girl Friday — has just been appointed to head up HUD’s Region II, encompassing New York and New Jersey. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s budget would slash HUD by $7 billion dollars. Public housing (which has been on the decline since the 1990s and saw major budget cuts during the Obama administration) would lose another $1.8 billion. But properties that, like Starrett City, are privately owned would be spared.
In other words, subsidized housing for low-income, elderly, and disabled residents would be cut, except for those properties that benefit real estate investors and managers like Trump and family. And there’s no small change to be made off of affordable housing, either. President Trump recently filed a 98-page financial disclosure that indicated he has made millions upon millions off his glitziest, most visible real estate holdings, especially Mar-a-Lago, the Trump International Hotel, and his golf course in Jupiter, Florida. But he also made a reported at least $5 million in income from the stake in Starrett City he inherited from his father.
While Trump himself might not have written the portion of the budget that massively cuts housing funding except for properties like Starrett City, it still presents a fresh conflict of interest. Carson insists that HUD is acting independently of the Trump family’s interests, and perhaps that’s true. But whether or not this was an intentional maneuver by Trump to profit off his presidency, the poor are the ones who are going to pay, along with the American taxpayers.