Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, has become the nation’s top housing official.
The Senate voted 58-41 today to confirm Carson, who has no housing experience, to be secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
President Donald Trump’s pick to lead HUD despite having no experience running a large federal agency, Carson will head a department with a $47 billion budget and responsibility for assisting millions of low-income people with their housing needs.
Carson has an inspiring personal story, rising from poverty in Detroit to become an acclaimed surgeon. However, housing advocates have been concerned that he will take a hard stance on moving people off government-assistance programs.
During his confirmation hearing, Carson said he planned to embark on a listening tour to meet and hear from different people.
He also tried to allay concerns that he opposes fair housing efforts. In a controversial 2015 Washington Times article, Carson critiqued HUD’s then-new fair housing rules, characterizing them as a “government-engineered attempt to legislate racial equality.”
On a positive note, he has said he will advocate for housing to be included in Trump’s infrastructure package.
He will step into office when many federal agencies are expected to face budget cuts under the new administration.
Following his confirmation, housing leaders said they look forward to working with Carson. Several pointed to Carson's call for a more holistic approach to addressing the nation's affordable housing crisis.
“Dr. Carson comes to HUD at a time of change that brings with it opportunity,” said Chris Estes, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, in a statement. “At his confirmation hearing, we heard his commitment to improving the lives of all Americans using housing as a platform for addressing health, education, and other social issues, and we look forward to helping him fulfill that commitment.”
Terri Ludwig, president and CEO of Enterprise Community Partners, said she is encouraged by Carson’s commitment “to make America’s neighborhoods stronger and more inclusive” and agrees that doing so requires a holistic approach to addressing issues like jobs, health care, education, and transportation and how they connect to housing.
“Secretary Carson’s support of the low-income housing tax credit, America’s primary tool for incentivizing private investment in affordable housing, is a strong first step toward protecting and strengthening resources for the creation and preservation of affordable homes,” Ludwig said. “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.”
Developer Steve PonTell, president and CEO of National Community Renaissance (National CORE), also voiced his support.
“Dr. Carson’s holistic vision of addressing affordable housing is precisely what is needed,” he said in a statement. “Housing affordability and availability are keeping us from advancing as a nation—economically and socially—and preventing millions of Americans from fulfilling their dreams. As Dr. Carson stated in his confirmation hearing, we need to take a fresh look at the old model, working across the federal government’s silos to help bring health care, education, and job training to residents subsidized by HUD programs.”