Bush praises new HUD secretary

President Bush on Thursday offered praise for Steve Preston, whom the Senate unanimously confirmed as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) late Wednesday night.

“Steve is a strong leader whose understanding of our financial markets and strong management skills make him highly qualified to serve in this important position,” he said.

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He called Preston, the former head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), a “consensus builder” who would “aggressively work to ensure that the department remains focused on its mission of making housing more affordable and helping Americans keep their homes.”

Preston will replace former HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who stepped down in March amid accusations of cronyism and partisan management of the agency.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Appropriations housing subcommittee, called for Jackson’s resignation after he refused to answer questions about the allegations during appearances before their panels.

Preston takes the reins of HUD amid a housing crisis that has wreaked havoc on global financial markets and threatens to push the economy into a sharp recession. Home foreclosures topped 1.5 million last year.