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Fed Appoints First Black Regional-Bank Chief

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The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on Monday said its next president will be  Raphael Bostic, a professor at the University of Southern California who will become the first black person to lead a regional Fed institution in the central bank’s 103-year history.

Bostic, who served from 2009 to 2012 as assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, helped to formulate policies responding to the deepest recession since the 1930s. While his specific views on monetary policy aren’t known, he’s shown a career interest in aiding poor and struggling communities.

“Dr. Bostic understands the important linkages of monetary policy and their impact on real estate,” said Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors chief economist in Washington. Yun said he expects Bostic wants to reverse a 50-year decline in the homeownership rate while “implementing policies in a safe and sound manner.”

Fed Chair Janet Yellen has been pressed by Democrats during congressional appearances to ensure monetary policy leaders are more representative of the American public — a goal that she has repeatedly said is shared within the central bank. 

Fed presidents are selected by boards of directors, with review by the Fed governors in Washington. An August study by Brookings Institution fellow Aaron Klein found that of 134 people who have served as regional Fed presidents since the central bank’s creation in 1913, none were African-American or Latino, and only six were women.

FOMC Voter

Bostic, 50, will take his post on June 5, succeeding Dennis Lockhart, who retired Feb. 28.

Bostic will have a vote on the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee in 2018 and will take part in his first FOMC meeting as a policy maker on June 13-14. Atlanta Fed First Vice President Marie Gooding, who has assumed Lockhart’s duties, will attend this week’s meeting of the FOMC in Washington and the next gathering, on May 2-3.

A graduate of Harvard University who earned his doctorate in economics from Stanford University in 1995, Bostic previously worked as an economist at the Fed Board in Washington from 1995 to 2001, serving in the monetary and financial studies section.

“He is a seasoned and versatile leader, bringing with him a wealth of experience in public policy and academia,” Southern Co. Chief Executive Officer Thomas Fanning, who serves as chairman of the Atlanta Fed board, said in a statement. “Raphael also has significant experience leading complex organizations and managing interdisciplinary teams. He is a perfect bridge between people and policy.”

Bostic, who has called for public policies to encourage affordable credit for low-income families, recalled in a commentary that his parents were fearful of discrimination when they moved in 1977 to a mostly white neighborhood in southern New Jersey to ensure their children went to good schools.

“Housing lies at the very heart of our health, our education, our economy, our public safety, and our individual success,” he wrote in September, adding he has focused his career on the elderly, low-income families, students and others seeking homes.

Bostic, who is openly gay, helped to implement an Obama administration rule that barred those who own government-funded housing from asking about an applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity. While Brookings doesn’t keep track of Fed presidents’ sexual orientation, he is a rarity among top Fed officials in being publicly gay.

“Bostic’s economic and public policy research has examined economic disparities in race and income, and searched for ways to build a better economy for everyone,” said Shawn Sebastian, co-director of the Fed Up coalition, which has led the push for more diversity.

The Atlanta Fed’s district covers Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee and includes some of the property markets that were hardest hit when the real-estate bubble burst in 2007.