In Short

Oregon housing agency director appointed HUD regional administrator

By: - January 13, 2022 2:19 pm

The Robert C. Weaver Federal Building in Washington, D.C., headquarters of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

The head of the Oregon agency managing the state’s troubled rent relief program will take a new job with the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, President Joe Biden announced Thursday.

Biden appointed Margaret Salazar, executive director of the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department, as the federal department’s regional administrator for Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Washington.  

Margaret Salazar (Governor’s Office)

The White House called Salazar a “national leader in affordable housing finance” in its announcement. 

Salazar has led the state housing agency since November 2016. During that time, the agency helped fund or build more than 18,000 affordable homes and responded to the 2020 wildfires that destroyed more than 4,000 homes.

She also oversaw an emergency rental assistance program that gave renters and landlords about $500 million in state and federal aid to cover rent and utilities for people affected by the Covid pandemic. The agency’s inability to keep up with rental aid requests put thousands of Oregon households at risk of eviction and caused the Legislature to return in December to extend a safe harbor period for tenants who had waited months to receive help from the state.

Lawmakers from both parties questioned why Salazar was still employed, comparing her agency to the state Employment Department. Gov. Kate Brown fired the head of that agency in May 2020 after the department failed to get unemployment checks to thousands of Oregonians who lost their jobs early in the pandemic.

Other officials, including the Democrats who lead the House and Senate housing committees, have stopped short of calling for Salazar’s resignation but asked for an audit of the state housing department. 

Brown has stood by Salazar. In a statement Thursday about Salazar’s new job, Brown described her as one of the “most effective leaders in our state government.”  

“She has led her dedicated team at Oregon Housing and Community Services with grace and determination through incredible challenges on a scale no one has faced before,” Brown said. “With her extensive leadership and expertise in housing issues at the local, statewide, and national levels, I know she is the right person for this job, where she can use her talents to address the unprecedented housing challenges our nation faces, while also representing Oregon’s voice and unique needs at the federal level.”

Salazar has a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and a master’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley. She worked for the federal Housing and Urban Development Department for 10 years before joining the state government.

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.