There’s a reason that Ben Carson’s entry on Next City’s “Best and Worst Urban Trends of 2016” reads simply: “A mystery on multiple levels.”
A group of experts and public officials who work on issues like fair housing and homelessness in cities released an open letter Tuesday urging the U.S. Senate to decline to confirm Carson as HUD Secretary. The letter has more than 300 signatures (and growing) and is addressed to Republican Senator Michael Crapo, chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Senator Sherrod Brown, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
“[W]e consider Dr. Carson completely unqualified to anticipate or promote appropriate solutions to the pressing housing and urban needs facing our country,” the letter begins.
Citing the agency’s mission of providing “a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family,” the letter goes on to enumerate just how Carson could fail at leading it. Not only is Carson lacking relevant experience, they write, but he has “expressed disdain for HUD’s mission.”
“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. Dr. Carson’s education, professional experience and basis of knowledge are wholly inadequate in these areas. …
Rather than understanding the continuing need for enforcement of laws that protect the rights of all who are seeking housing, nor acknowledging that the government has an ongoing commitment to provide opportunities for low-income people who are eager to move to low-poverty areas, Dr. Carson has dismissed fair housing as being ‘a mandated social-engineering scheme.’”
After President-elect Donald Trump announced his nomination of Carson in early December, Next City’s Oscar Perry Abello spoke to several housing experts about what the appointment could mean for HUD — and cities.
“It’s really unknown what kind of HUD secretary Carson will be, if he is confirmed,” said Barbara Sard, vice president for housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a D.C.-based research and advocacy organization. “There’s cause for concern if he’s not committed to sustaining vital federal rental assistance and continuing to make rental assistance more effective.”
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.