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Embattled US Housing Chief Resigns

The top U.S. housing official, who is under criminal investigation, has announced he is resigning. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson says he will step down April 18.

"There comes a time when one must attend diligently to personal and family matters," he said. "Now is such a time for me."

For two years, Jackson has been fighting allegations that he behaved improperly in awarding contracts with his agency. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been probing the relationship between Jackson and a friend who was paid 392,000 by his department as a construction manager in New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina.

Also, the housing authority in the city of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) has filed a lawsuit alleging that Jackson tried to punish the city agency for rejecting a deal involving one of Jackson's friends.

Jackson did not mention the controversies as he announced his resignation. Instead, he concentrated on what his agency has accomplished since he became Secretary in 2004.

"We have helped families keep their homes. We have transformed public housing. We have reduced chronic homelessness. And we have preserved affordable housing and increased minority homeownership."

Alphonso Jackson's resignation will likely leave the Bush administration without a Housing Secretary at a time when a crisis in the housing industry, set off by risky mortgage lending, is causing problems for the U.S. economy.

President Bush, who has had a friendship with Jackson since the late 1980's, accepted his resignation with regret, calling him "a strong leader and a good man."

Jackson says he has spent more than 30 years improving housing opportunities for all Americans, regardless of income or race.

"As the son of a lead smelter and [a] nurse midwife, and the last of 12 children, never did I imagine I would serve America in such a way. I am truly grateful for the opportunity."

Jackson said he is staying on for three more weeks to ensure an orderly leadership transition at his agency.