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For the last two weeks, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development has been buzzing with speculation that Commissioner Richard Roberts is about to take a hike.

The top housing man took the job in early 1997, after stints as vice-president for community relations at Mount Sinai Hospital and at the Edison Project (now Edison Schools), which promotes the privatization of public schools.

Now, gossip holds that he’s eyeing a job at one of the big Wall Street brokerage houses. Calls to HPD and to the mayor’s press office were not returned.

If Roberts leaves, a new commissioner could come in and clean house, rearranging staff yet again. But strong candidates for the job may be hard to find, given the agency’s low profile and the mayor’s lame-duck status, leaving the possibility that department number-two Jerilyn Perine will take the helm until the mayor’s term is up.

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