Event planner Lynne Patton, a Trump loyalist without any housing experience, will run the office overseeing New York’s housing programs.
Trump named Patton to the position Wednesday, where she’ll oversee the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Region II, home to both New York and New Jersey. Vacant since January 20, the job has been in need of new shoes — but Patton may not be what many had in mind.
Up until now, Patton’s biggest claim to fame seems to be planning the wedding of Eric Trump, the president’s son. According to her LinkedIn public profile, Patton says she holds a law degree from Quinnipiac University (with an unexplained “N/A” written next to the degree), in addition to an unnamed degree from Yale University. But Quinnipiac school registrar Jim Benson told the New York Daily News that, while Patton had attended for two semesters, she never graduated. Her connection to Yale also remains unclear and unverified — HUD officials could not confirm to the publication why she had listed the Ivy League institution.
Lynne Patton also claims a law degree, which she did not earn, and cites Yale University, which she did not attend, on her LinkedIn profile. https://t.co/IPXqO7AbT1
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) June 16, 2017
A former senior advisor for Trump’s presidential campaign, Patton has also reportedly served as vice president for the Eric Trump Foundation (currently under investigation for fraud) since 2011. Patton’s relationship with the Trumps has dominated much of the coverage surrounding her appointment, but also turning heads is her level of preparedness for a challenging role.
It isn’t completely unusual for individuals in politically appointed roles like Patton’s to be somewhat inexperienced — but Patton’s resume still represents an outlier, according to several current and former administration officials who spoke anonymously to ThinkProgress. Under former President Barack Obama’s administration, Patton’s role was held by Holly Leicht, who came to the position with a lengthy background in planning and development. Patton, by contrast, has none, which could be a stumbling block.
Patton’s new position means she will oversee the distribution of billions of federal dollars intended for a region in desperate need of funds. Under the Trump administration’s proposed budget, around $340 million will be cut from the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) budget: $210 million for fixing aging buildings and $130 million for daily operations.
At the time the cuts were announced, New York City Mayor de Blasio emphasized that they would make the city less safe.
“What would it be taken away from? Safety and security measures for our buildings. Doors that lock. Cameras that protect residents,” de Blasio said.
The cuts have severe implications for de Blasio’s city. New York’s aging buildings require around $17 billion in repairs and more than 70 percent of NYCHA’s operational budget comes from HUD, which also funds its capital repair budget in full. But the wider region could also be impacted by the Trump administration’s desire to tighten purse strings. Currently, more than $13 billion also comes from HUD to cover relief efforts linked to Hurricane Sandy, which hit in 2012 and left several states dealing with years worth of repairs.
“I think the key issue is that whoever fills this position will be representing a significant portion of the federal investment in both affordable housing and resilient recovery from disasters,” a former senior official who wished to remain off the record told ThinkProgress. The area Patton will be overseeing “has the lion’s share of the CDBG-DR (disaster recovery) funds appropriated by Congress after Hurricane Sandy,” the official said, explaining that the funds amount to more than $12 billion and make the area arguably the largest and most important HUD region due to its scale on both housing and non-housing urban issues.
“Much of the disaster recovery money is being used for infrastructure, so that makes it critical that the HUD RA [Patton’s position] understand both urban affordable housing issues and how cities work,” the official emphasized.
According to sources, Patton’s role means she will be more of a figurehead than a policymaker, making it unlikely that she will be interacting with disbursing grants on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean she won’t be able to influence policy — especially if specific issues arise concerning the grants themselves.
Patton is far from the only Trump staffer to lack experience prior to her role. Her boss, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, also came to his position without any housing or urban development experience. Carson has left many baffled during his first few months at HUD. While touring facilities for low-income residents in April, Carson dismissed them as too “comfortable,” criticizing efforts to make the accommodations appealing for residents. He aroused further controversy in late May after claiming that “poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind” — a stance anti-poverty activists strongly reject.
With additional reporting from Ryan Koronowski.