American Oversight Sues HUD for Communications Related to Sale of Trump-Tied Housing Complex

(Photo: Matt Green)

American Oversight today sued the Department of Housing and Urban Development to shed light on the $900 million sale of Starrett City, the country’s largest federally subsidized housing development. President Donald Trump, who held a 4 percent stake in the Brooklyn complex at the time of its sale, reportedly made approximately $20 million from the deal.

In April 2018, HUD Secretary Ben Carson approved Starrett City’s sale. The massive housing complex in Brooklyn with 5,581 apartments, a shopping center, and its own ZIP code provides housing to low- and middle-income tenants. Starrett City’s owners receive tens of millions of dollars in subsidies from the federal government each year.

In 2017, legislators raised concerns about Starrett City’s proposed sale. Representatives Elijah Cummings and Hakeem Jeffries questioned Trump’s potential conflict of interest in both overseeing and profiting from the deal, while Jeffries and Senator Chuck Schumer warned that the sale could increase Starrett City tenants’ rent payments and jeopardize the complex’s affordability. Despite legislators’ concerns, HUD and New York state authorities approved the deal.

“Yet again, President Trump’s refusal to divest from his businesses has created the appearance of a significant conflict of interest,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “The president’s role as both a regulator and beneficiary of Starrett City’s sale should give the public serious pause. Americans deserve to know if the government approved this deal with anything other than tenants’ interests in mind.”

In February of this year, American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking communications to or from HUD political appointees, including Carson and Region II Administrator Lynne Patton, about the sale of Starrett City. Before her appointment at HUD, Patton worked as a Trump family aide, and American Oversight has previously uncovered HUD emails related to the complex, including an email thread on public messaging around Starrett City payments and a discussion of Patton’s recusal from related matters. Today’s suit comes after HUD failed to provide records in response to the February FOIA request.

See the complaint below:

Part of Investigation: