Looks like Trump really is going to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as HUD secretary. Remember this is a man for whom even with all his talents, he freely admits that he's patently unqualified to run any federal department, including HUD. So naturally, he's running HUD.
President-elect Donald Trump has picked Ben Carson to be his secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who faced off against Trump in this year's Republican primaries, is the first African-American nominated for Trump's Cabinet.
In a statement announcing the nomination, Trump referred to Carson's overcoming a troubled youth in Detroit to become head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development," Trump said. "Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities."
"I am honored to accept the opportunity to serve our country in the Trump administration," Carson said. "I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation's housing needs are met."
Andrew Flowers at FiveThirtyEight gives a number of reasons why HUD needs to be a top priority in the Trump administration (or any administration for that matter) and why leaving it to someone like Carson is playing with fire.
Housing should be at the center of any attempt to fight poverty. Recent research by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, among others, has shown that inadequate housing is often a catalyst for a cycle of poverty; it triggers residential instability, which hurts the life outcomes of children and their parents. And for the poorest of the poor, the homeless, experts are increasingly promoting a “housing first” approach, in which authorities try to help people find housing as a first step toward addressing other poverty challenges.
But housing policy in the U.S. is skewed toward rewarding wealthy homeowners (with tax deductions) rather than renters, who tend to be poorer. HUD oversees the Section 8 housing voucher program, which helps about 5 million people pay for private housing. Another roughly 2 million people are in public housing.
But, crucially, the majority of poor Americans who qualify for housing assistance don’t get it — about 75 percent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Of those families below the federal poverty guideline, 67 percent don’t get any housing assistance. A new HUD secretary could help change that, or could promote other reforms that would let the government help more poor families afford housing.
The fact that HUD is responsible for nearly $1 trillion in home mortgage loans should give a hell of a lot of people mild angina now that Ben Carson's in charge of it. And let's remember, this is a guy who thinks the Fair Housing Act, arguably HUD's most important component? Carson thinks HUD has no business actually enforcing it.
Perhaps HUD’s most important role is that of ensuring equal access to housing, a role enshrined in the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The law made the agency responsible not just for fighting housing discrimination but for “affirmatively furthering” fair housing. The Obama administration last year announced plans to enforce that requirement by withholding federal funds in historically segregated areas. Contingent on receiving funds, state and local public housing authorities would be required to address how affordable housing development and zoning regulations further the goals of the FHA.
Not much is known about Carson’s views on housing. But in 2015, he published an Op-Ed in The Washington Times lambasting the Obama administration’s enforcement measures. As Emily Badger of The Upshot wrote recently, Carson’s comments suggest that if he takes charge of HUD, he could water down — or end outright — the agency’s role in desegregation and in fighting housing discrimination.
Let's take a look at America's new housing chief on HUD and the Fair Housing Act in his own words, shall we?
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.
These rules come on the heels of a Supreme Court decision narrowly upholding the use of “disparate impact” analysis in determining whether municipal housing policies have a racially discriminatory effect, whether intended or not. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs vs. Inclusive Communities Project, et al., turned on whether the Texas housing agency decision to authorize more subsidized housing developments in poor rather than wealthy areas was racially discriminatory since it resulted in less affordable housing being made available in wealthier, non-black areas. The court ruled that it was proper for the lower courts and HUD to make a determination based on “disparate impact” rather than any specific intent to discriminate.
Fair housing advocates saw this as a victory, but as with other mandated social-engineering schemes, the sort of unintended consequences Justice Samuel Alito alluded to in his dissent lurk in the shadows. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio recently announced a plan to build almost 80,000 new affordable housing units in the city’s minority neighborhoods, but the new rules could conceivably prevent their construction because of the “disparate impact” doing so might have on minority access to affordable housing in non-minority areas of the city.
These government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse. 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.
A HUD chief that thinks HUD shouldn't actually do anything outside of "explicit discrimination", and that it shouldn't "promote diversity" in housing. Carson may be one of Trump's most dangerous and most detrimental cabinet choices in the long run, folks.