Ben Carson was confirmed as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today — and the organization heads and policymakers who will be working with the neurosurgeon expressed both congratulations and critiques. President Donald Trump has said that the position will play a central role in efforts to “revitalize” cities, but critics note Carson’s lack of experience, as well as institutionalized HUD practices they say hurt lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
Enterprise Community Partners, a builder of affordable housing with long ties to HUD, pointed to Carson’s support of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit as a beacon of hope. Trump’s talk about cutting business taxes has impacted LIHTCs, which have financed millions of rental housing units that are affordable to low-income Americans. However, the Chicago Tribune recently reported that Carson has held up the program as a model of partnership between HUD, the private sector and faith-based groups in the last few weeks.
Carson’s support “is a strong first step toward protecting and strengthening resources for the creation and preservation of affordable homes,” Terri Ludwig, president and CEO of Enterprise, wrote. “We will work with him to build on the success of the Housing Credit and other public-private partnerships ‘that are working so that we can multiply them across the country,’ as he suggested he would do during his confirmation hearing.”
On Twitter, the Center for Public Integrity raised some questions about HUD practices going forward.
The tweet links to a story about a class action lawsuit that alleges that auctions of government-insured mortgages “discriminate against predominately African-American neighborhoods.”
In January, a number of fair housing experts and public officials signed a letter critiquing the possibility of a Carson appointment, particularly due to Carson’s lack of experience.
“Housing is an enormously complex issue. It requires, among other things, an understanding of finance, economics, labor markets, land use, transportation, energy and the many legal underpinnings that govern housing and development policy,” the letter stated. “Dr. Carson’s education, professional experience and basis of knowledge are wholly inadequate in these areas. …”
That critique was taken up again following his confirmation.
“Senate Republicans have consistently confirmed Trump’s questionable cabinet nominees and today is no different,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) said in a statement today. “The decision to put Dr. Carson in such a critical role in our Federal government reveals that Trump and Republicans are not serious about addressing the housing challenges faced by hardworking American families.”
“I voted NO on Dr. Carson for HUD Secretary,” echoed Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “We need an experienced leader to fight homelessness epidemic and address affordable housing.”
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.