President Donald Trump’s stake in the nation’s largest federally subsidized housing complex—Starrett City in Brooklyn, New York—has raised questions from two congressional Democrats about a potential conflict of interest, as first reported by the New York Times.
Trump has a four percent ownership in the housing complex, which offers 3,500 lower and middle-income apartments subsidized through a rental assistance program. The deteriorating complex has generated Trump at least $5 million of income between January 2016 and April 15, 2017, as reported in The Washington Post. The federal government has paid more than $490 million in the complex’s rent subsidies since May 2013, with nearly $38 million since Trump took office.
In a letter sent on Friday by Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the lawmakers expressed their concern that Trump could increase his profits through his involvement with the complex, despite leading the federal government (which operates the subsidies through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, known as HUD).
The letter was addressed to HUD Secretary Ben Carson and those managing Trump’s trust of business assets (namely, Donald Trump Jr. and Allen H. Weisselberg of The Trump Organization); it was also sent to Representative Trey Gowdy of The House Oversight Committee.
“Many real estate companies receive government subsidies to support affordable housing, but unique conflicts exist with regard to Starrett City because the president is on both sides of the negotiations,” the letter read in the Times. “He oversees the government entity providing taxpayer funds and he pockets some of that money himself.”
The letter also raised issues with Trump’s proposed budget cut to federal housing programs. The administration has proposed reducing HUD’s budget by $7 billion, however, the project-based rental assistance program—which Starrett City falls under—is one of the few programs that will be spared major cuts to funding.
Trump’s recent nominee to lead the HUD’s New York region, Lynne Patton, an event planner with no experience in housing, has also been a source of controversy. Her appointment would mean that she would be directly involved in policies related to Starrett City. “We have serious concerns that her self-described loyalty to the president and his family could influence HUD’s discretion on issues related to Starrett City,” Cummings and Jeffries said in the letter.