Status of the Appointment:
Despite a confirmation reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that Dr. Ben Carson had accepted the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the paper issued a correction statement quoting Alonso Williams, Carson’s spokesman, as saying “President-elect Donald Trump is considering Ben Carson to be the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A previous version of this article incorrectly said that he was offered and accepted the post, citing Mr. Carson’s spokesman. (Nov. 23)”
The premature announcement follows a Nov. 22 tweet from President-elect Trump, “I am seriously considering Dr. Ben Carson as the head of HUD. I've gotten to know him well--he's a greatly talented person who loves people!”
That tweet was unexpected as many earlier articles speculated that candidates for the position at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) featured well-known names in the housing field such as Pam Patenaude, the president of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America's Families and Bob Woodson, the founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.
One day later, Carson posted the following message on his Facebook account, fueling rumors he was likely to accept the post.
“Winning the presidential election was only the first step for those who love traditional America and do not wish to fundamentally change it. Now the hard work begins of restoring the values that made us great. We must bring back the compassion and the unity that empowers us and banish the divisiveness that weakens us. After serious discussions with the Trump transition team, I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone. We have much work to do in strengthening every aspect of our nation and ensuring that both our physical infrastructure and our spiritual infrastructure is solid. An announcement is forthcoming about my role in helping to make America great again.”
It now seems the candidate for the position will be taking the long Thanksgiving weekend to mull the decision, as he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that he would be “thinking and praying over it seriously over the holiday. Our inner cities are in terrible shape. They definitely need some real attention. There have been so many promises made and nothing has been done. So it certainly is something that has been a long-term interest of mine.”
If accepted, this would put Carson at the helm of the 50-year-old agency, charged with overseeing housing programs that affect over 5 million low-income households, through managing the Federal Housing Administration, public housing, low-income rental assistance, and homelessness programs, to name a few.
This offer under consideration by Carson poses a number of questions for housing and community development advocates as little is known about what the former presidential candidate’s specific positions on federal housing policies.
According to Carson’s autobiography, he was raised in a single-parent, low-income household in Detroit and later in life, became a renowned in the pediatric neurosurgery department at Johns Hopkins Hospital before eventually entering the political arena. In 2015, he entered the race to become the Republican nominee for President and after failing to secure the nomination, he became a highly visible surrogate for President-elect Trump.
Carson’s upbringing seems to have influenced a number of his social policy positions that may shed light on his views on federal programs designed to support low-income households. A 2015 article from the Washington Post quoted Carson as saying, “I don’t want to get rid of any safety net programs. I want to create an environment where they won’t be needed.”
A 2014 article from Politico provided additional detail on this stance, quoting Carson in a conversation surrounding education issues as saying:
“What I prefer is to create mechanisms whereby all people can move upward. If you happen to be in an affluent community, there’s a lot more money for the schools, better facilities, everything. All that does is perpetuate the situation. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put the money in a pot and redistribute it throughout the country so that public schools are equal, whether you’re in a poor area or a wealthy area?”
In yet another article regarding his economic policy positions from the Baltimore Sun in 2015, then candidate Carson was quoted as saying, "Most of the people that I have heard from in the political arena, they say, 'one of the big solutions to our problems is we have to remove the entitlements,'" Carson said. "And I say, no, what you have to do is fix the economy. ... When people have viable options, that's when you start pulling entitlements."
Beyond those references to economic mobility and federal social programs, the most specific information to be gleaned regarding his stance on housing programs is from a 2015 op-ed Carson wrote for the Washington Times on the Obama Administration’s efforts to address housing discrimination through the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule. AFFH is a federal rule stating that local governments and states that receive Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA), as well as public housing agencies (PHAs) are required to affirmatively further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act. The regulation is aimed at strengthening local jurisdictions’ and public housing agencies’ fair housing obligations, through an improved structure and process whereby HUD provides program participants with guidance, data, and an assessment template from which they would complete an assessment of fair housing (the AFH).
Previous blog posts from Prosperity Indiana (formerly IACED) explaining AFFH can be found below:
From Carson’s op-ed stance, his appointment to the HUD post would be concerning for Prosperity Indiana, as our organization advocates to uphold AFFH on the grounds it better
provides fair housing choice, reduces ethnic and racial concentrations of poverty, improves access to transportation, and improves quality of life for all Hoosiers regardless of race, color, religion, disability, or familial status.
In that op-ed, Carson characterized the AFFH effort the following way:
“Undaunted by the failed socialist experiments of the 1980s, the Obama administration has recently implemented a new Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule designed to “desegregate” housing by withholding funds from communities that fail to demonstrate their projects “affirmatively further” fair housing.”
He went on to compare it to other seemingly well-intended efforts to decrease desegregation, such as busing to reduce segregation in schools as exacerbating the issues instead of improving them. Carson does point out that segregation and wealth disparity in the country’s communities were not entirely the result of forced integration, stating, “Other private and public housing policies such as redlining, restrictive covenants, discriminatory steering by real estate agents, and restricted access to private capital — all attempts at social engineering — exacerbated the suburban segregation in the 1970s and ‘80s.” It is clear in the article, however, that he views the AFFH rule as a government overstep that will not achieve its intended aims.
“It is true that the Fair Housing Act and other laws have greatly reduced explicit discrimination in housing, but significant disparities in housing availability and quality persist. To address them, The Obama administration’s new agency rules rely on a tortured reading of the Fair Housing laws to empower the Department of Housing and Urban Development to “affirmatively promote” fair housing, even in the absence of explicit discrimination. The new rule would not only condition the grant of HUD funds to municipalities on building affordable housing as is the case today, but would require that such affordable housing be built primarily in wealthier neighborhoods with few current minority residents and that the new housing be aggressively marketed to minorities. In practice, the rule would fundamentally change the nature of some communities from primarily single-family to largely apartment-based areas by encouraging municipalities to strike down housing ordinances that have no overtly (or even intended) discriminatory purpose — including race-neutral zoning restrictions on lot sizes and limits on multi-unit dwellings, all in the name of promoting diversity… There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens, but based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous.”
Prosperity Indiana’s policy team will continue to follow any new statements from Carson regarding this position and any revealing statements on a potential housing and community development agenda should he accept the role to lead HUD. Stay tuned next week for updates on this announcement and additional coverage of cabinet appointments likely to impact the work of Prosperity Indiana members.
What Our Partners Are Saying:
National partners of Prosperity Indiana have begun to weigh in on the announcement, given the President-elect’s stated strong consideration of Carson for the role. The following press release was issued Wednesday, Nov. 23, by Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition: http://nlihc.org/press/releases/7316. Read speculation on additional candidates for the HUD Secretary from Rooflines, blog of Shelterforce.