Ben Carson’s Nomination for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Opportunities and Concerns
The news on December 5th that Ben Carson has accepted Trump’s nomination for HUD Secretary is potentially cause for concern for the millions of Americans who are homeless or at risk—and for anyone who cares about this continuing crisis.
It’s a common misconception that people become homeless as a result of personal failures or poor choices. But by far the overwhelming cause of homelessness is the scarcity of affordable housing, and strong leadership from HUD will be essential in addressing it. Dr. Carson has no experience in housing policy, and some of the few statements he’s made are troubling.
Dr. Carson has used his personal story to criticize “dependency” on government programs. His autobiography opens with an Introduction from his mother, Sonya Carson, saying, “If you don’t succeed, you only have yourself to blame.” He has criticized regulation, the size of the government, and emphasized the need for personal responsibility and work. In his one published piece in reference to housing and urban development, Dr. Carson referred to a fair housing program as “social engineering.”
But, in fact, we know that homelessness is generally caused by structural reasons – such the fact that wages are not high enough to pay for housing and our country needs millions more units of affordable housing. Currently the United States spends more to subsidize the housing market for households making over $100,000, through the mortgage income tax deduction, than for low-income households, through all the housing programs combined. If government subsidies cause “dependency,” where is the evidence that the mortgage deduction is undermining the upper class? We also know that racial segregation is caused by social engineering — those government policies and practices that perpetuate racial living patterns in our communities — not the reverse.
If Dr. Carson is confirmed by the Senate, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty will do anything it can to assist him and his team at HUD to prevent and end homelessness in constructive and proven ways. We are hopeful about Dr. Carson’s statements that he does “care about the poor people” and that “we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities.” We hope he will take the time to learn about the true causes and solutions for poverty and homelessness in this nation.
For further information, please view Maria’s recent post featured on The Huffington Post.