Trump Team Narrows List for Next FHA Commissioner

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The transition team for President-elect Donald Trump is considering several candidates to fill key spots at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Federal Housing Administration, including a homebuilder and former lender.

According to sources familiar with the situation, the Trump team is weighing Edward Brady, an Illinois home builder, and Debra Still, president and chief executive of Pulte Mortgage and a former chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association, as FHA commissioner.

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., who recently lost his reelection bid, has also been mentioned for the FHA commissioner slot, sources said, though The Wall Street Journal has also cited him for a role at the Federal Housing Finance Agency or the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Brian Montgomery, a former FHA commissioner who is currently vice chairman of The Collingwood Group, is thought to be in the running for deputy secretary of HUD, sources said.

It's not clear when Trump's team will make a decision. So far, it has announced that retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson will be nominated for secretary of HUD.

Brady is the president of Brady Homes and was chairman of the National Association of Home Builders this year. In response to questions from American Banker, he confirmed that he'd met with the transition team and decided to "throw his hat in the ring to serve as the FHA commissioner."

Debra Still did not respond to a request for comment.

Brady has never served in a government post. But he has been a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center and served on its Bipartisan Housing Commission. He is currently on the Center's Immigration Task Force. Immigration is important issue for the housing sector because of the shortage of construction workers and tradesman.

He previously had a mortgage brokerage firm, but because of the regulatory and compliance requirements, he said he entered into a joint venture with Wells Fargo and eventually sold it to them. Brady also serves on the board of directors of the Chicago Federal Home Loan Bank. He has been involved in the development of the Mortgage Partnership Finance, which purchases and aggregates single-family mortgages from community banks and other FHLB members.

In the interview, Brady said he wants to streamline the lending processing and make the FHA program more user-friendly.

"The president-elect is putting practitioners in positions of leadership and I think that is a really smart move," Brady said in the interview.

He expects the transition team will put experienced staff around Carson so he has the resources to be successful. "We think he will be a great spokesman," Brady said, and "make housing a priority."

Who Trump ultimately picks for FHA likely depends in part on whether he and his team want to expand the agency's role in the mortgage market. Republicans have been critical of the FHA, arguing it is not adequately pricing for the risk it takes in serving less creditworthy borrowers.

But Trump, a builder by trade, may have a different view. His pick for FHA will give clues as to his intentions.

"Homebuilding is close to my heart. My father built homes in Brooklyn and Queens," Trump said Aug. 11 at a National Association of Home Builders event.

Trump noted that the homeownership rate is at lowest level in 51 years and "taxes and regulations are horrible. We will remove the bureaucrats who only know how to kill jobs," he said.

The president-elect stressed that housing and homebuilding is one of the biggest businesses in terms of creating jobs.

"I know where you come from. I know your mindset," Trump told the builders. "I know you can do amazing things. So go home, build homes and create jobs and we will make together America great again."

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