Is Ben Carson as HUD secretary a good idea? Reactions vary wildly

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Well, it’s been a few days since HousingWire reported that Ben Carson intended to accept President-elect Donald Trump’s offer to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, but there’s been no official word yet.

HousingWire’s report is based on sources very close to Carson, who said that an official announcement on Carson’s selection could come as soon as Monday. Well, it’s now Thursday morning and there’s been no announcement.

Perhaps the Trump team was just waiting to announce other more significant positions first, like Wednesday’s announcements of Steve Mnuchin, a former executive at Goldman Sachs and former chairman of OneWest Bank, as secretary of the Department of the Treasury, and Wilbur Ross as the secretary of the Department of Commerce.

Trump himself fanned the flames of Carson as HUD secretary last week, when he tweeted that he was “seriously considering” Carson for the top job at HUD.

Carson appeared to indicate the he planned to accept Trump’s offer last week, when he took to Twitter and Facebook to discuss the HUD offer and strongly suggest that he planned to accept the job.

“We have much work to do in strengthening every aspect of our nation and ensuring that both our physical spiritual infrastructure is solid,” Carson tweeted last Wednesday morning.

Carson followed that tweet with another suggesting that he planned to accept the HUD job, stating “An announcement is forthcoming about my role in helping to make America great again.”

That was over a week ago.

Since then, Carson’s Twitter feed has been quiet other than a post about Thanksgiving and two posts from his foundation.

But that hasn’t stopped reactions to Carson’s (potential) appointment at HUD from pouring in from all sides.

Much of the reaction, from various media outlets, commentators, and even HousingWire’s own loyal commenters, has landed somewhere in the range between bewildered and confused.

That reaction appears to be based on Carson’s background, which is in neurosurgery, rather than in anything related to housing or urban development.

Andrew Flowers, writing for FiveThirtyEight.com, suggests that naming Carson as HUD secretary shows that the Trump administration does not care about HUD.

Flowers’ headline certainly drives that point home: “Stop Treating HUD Like A Second-Tier Department.”

Flowers argues for the importance of HUD and its functions and says that he hopes Trump and Carson (if he does indeed officially accept) treat the department appropriately.

From his article:

HUD sometimes has a reputation as a bureaucratic backwater — presidents rarely put their closest advisers in charge of it. But in terms of its impact on Americans’ lives, HUD is far from second-tier. It has a budget of nearly $50 billion and employs over 8,000 workers. Its programs have a major impact on poverty, home ownership and affordability. Its data collection and enforcement roles are key for fighting discrimination and segregation. Here are four reasons why HUD and housing policy matter. Let’s hope President-elect Trump and maybe-Secretary Carson see that.

A common theme is how Carson’s selection will impact fair housing efforts of the Obama administration. Regardless of the site’s particular slant, the consensus appears to be that Trump and Carson will not forcefully enforce the Fair Housing Act, as the Obama Administration did.

Alana Samuels, writing for The Atlantic, titles her article: “The Future of Housing Segregation Under Trump.”

Samuels argues, as many others have, that Carson views fair housing as a “mandated social-engineering scheme,” and suggests that Carson’s selection is a sure sign that the fair housing efforts of the Obama administration will be undone.

From Samuels’ article:

A Trump administration could also decide to scale down enforcement of the Fair Housing Act more generally, both through HUD actions and through the Department of Justice. Even before the rule, for example, HUD could revoke funding from communities that were perpetuating segregation. In Beaumont, Texas, for instance, after state and federal governments decided that the neighborhood the city had chosen for a new public-housing complex was too segregated, HUD took away the funding for the project. It told the city it could have the money back if it built the housing complex in a more integrated neighborhood. HUD, under Trump, could direct staffers to be less aggressive when responding to such cases. In addition, the attorney general and assistant attorney general for civil rights file lawsuits over issues of housing discrimination. Between 2012 and 2015, for example, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department filed more than 100 lawsuits to combat housing and lending discrimination. An administration under a president who has no stated interest in combating housing discrimination could see fewer such lawsuits.

Joseph Lawler, writing from the Washington Examiner, also suggests that fair housing efforts will be on the chopping block, but suggests that that might not be a bad thing.

From Lawler’s article:

In a 2015 Washington Times op-ed, however, Carson described the (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) rule as an example of “government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality” bound to fail and compared it to unsuccessful busing efforts in the 1970s and 1980s.

Although his views on the numerous other housing programs that HUD runs remain a mystery, Carson’s opposition to the fair housing rule has provided some optimism to HUD critics.

“We may well see a rollback of AFFH rules,” said Michael Maharrey, communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, a group opposed to the rule. “But what it will really mean in practice is anybody’s guess.”

Ana Marie Cox, writing for MTV.com, presents a more complete view of Carson’s potential tenure at HUD, and doesn’t paint a particularly flattering picture.

From Cox’s article:

But we do know a little about how Carson views HUD. He compared the Obama administration’s campaign to move public housing out of minority and low-income neighborhoods to forced busing, calling it a “socialist experiment.” In a Facebook post about heading the agency, he talked about “making our inner cities great for everyone,” though one suspects he really meant “great for everyone already there.” He also mentioned “ensuring that both our physical infrastructure and our spiritual infrastructure is solid.” I’m not sure with which I trust him less.

And at Breitbart.com, Ian Hanchett presents a recap of a “Fox and Friends” interview with Kevin Chavous, a former Washington, D.C. city council member and a former Obama education transition team member. In the interview, Chavous suggests that Carson will perform well as HUD secretary.

From Hanchett’s recap:

He added that there was “a real good opportunity for Ben Carson to make a huge difference. As you said, his background in Detroit, he understands what it feels like to grow up poor in a working-class inner city community. … If President-Elect Trump is serious about helping to fix what’s going on in our inner cities, you can do some really good things with HUD. I remember Jack Kemp years ago, created this approach where he empowered low-income public housing residents into home ownership, made a big difference in our cities around America, and when I was on the City Council in DC, I worked with [fmr. HUD Secretary and current New York Governor] Andrew Cuomo (D) for block grant funding for targeted development. I think that Ben Carson can do a lot of those kinds of things.”

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention HousingWire’s own Brena Swanson, who suggested that there could be a real silver lining in Carson as HUD secretary.

So, what do we do now? We keep checking for an official announcement from Trump and Carson.

Until then, we wait and we bloviate.

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