News Brief

Trump nominates Ben Carson for HUD secretary

President-elect says his former rival has 'a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities'

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It’s official: retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson will serve as President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), so long as Congress confirms him.

Source: Wikimedia commons/Gage Skidmore

Source: Wikimedia commons/Gage Skidmore

Carson and Trump were once rivals competing for the GOP presidential nomination.

“I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Trump said in a statement. “Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities.

“We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency that represents all Americans.”

HUD “oversees homeownership, low-income housing assistance, fair housing laws, homelessness, aid for distressed neighborhoods, and housing development,” according to its website.

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Today, Carson posted on message on Facebook that said, “I am honored and look forward to working hard on behalf of the American people.”

The news comes after Trump tweeted about his interest in Carson about two weeks ago. Moreover, on Monday, Nov. 28, sources “close to the appointment” confirmed to HousingWire that Ben Carson would officially accept the role.

A Facebook post from Carson on Nov. 23 also indicated that Trump would likely tap him for the job.

“After serious discussions with the Trump transition team, I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone,” Carson wrote. “We have much work to do in strengthening every aspect of our nation and ensuring that both our physical infrastructure and our spiritual infrastructure is solid.”

Previously, Carson suggested he wasn’t interested in a government position after being offered the job as head of the Department of Health and Human Services a few weeks ago.

But the doctor wavered on this message, later stating on Facebook that “if called upon, I would serve inside of the government.”

If confirmed, Carson will be the first African American appointed to a senior position in Trump’s cabinet. He would replace Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, and President Obama’s appointee since 2014. Prior to Castro, New York City’s housing commissioner Shaun Donovan filled the role.

Comments from NAR, RESPRO, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Given Carson’s health care background (he was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins until his 2013 retirement), Trump’s decision breaks the tradition of appointing HUD secretaries with local government or housing and real estate experience.

“Realtors know that the incoming Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has a big job ahead,” said National Association of Realtors president William E. Brown in a statement. “Potential homebuyers face a range of hurdles, from rising prices to mortgage credit that’s burdened by fees and extra costs.

“We congratulate Dr. Carson on accepting this important challenge and wish him the very best of luck in meeting the task ahead. While we’ve made great strides in recent years, far more can be done to put the dream of homeownership in reach for more Americans. The National Association of Realtors and its 1.2 million members looks forward to working with Dr. Carson to fulfill this important mission.”

“The choice of Ben Carson is about more than FHA premiums and rules, but it will play a role,” said Ken Trepeta, executive director at RESPRO (Real Estate Services Providers Council), in a statement.

“This choice is about a vision to use HUD as a leading force in President-elect Trump’s effort to renew our cities an reach out to African Americans, Hispanics, and others who live in those areas. We at RESPRO look forward to working with Dr. Carson.”

In a Nov. 23 statement, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition Diane Yentel, emphasized the critical responsibilities of HUD, to include:

  • federal rental assistance programs that serve over 5 million of the country’s lowest income households
  • administering tens of billions of dollars in community development, disaster recovery and homeless assistance funding
  • enforcing fair housing laws
  • acting as one of the largest mortgage insurers in the world
  • alleviating poverty
  • stabilizing and revitalizing communities
  • increasing the educational attainment and incomes of low income families
  • providing safe, affordable homes to deeply poor elderly or disabled families

“With so many qualified candidates to choose from with deep knowledge of, and commitment to affordable housing solutions for the poorest families, and with the housing crisis reaching new heights across the country, Dr. Ben Carson’s nomination to serve as HUD secretary is surprising and concerning, given his lack of experience with or knowledge of the programs he would oversee,” Yentel said.

“The little that we do know about Dr. Carson’s position on affordable housing is a reason for concern. In July 2015, Dr. Carson published an editorial describing fair housing as an Obama administration ‘experiment,’ revealing a fundamental misunderstanding of obligations that have been around since 1968, the year the Fair Housing Act was made law.”

She added: “Ultimately, fair housing means all families, including the poorest ones, are able to choose the neighborhoods in which to live based on what’s best for themselves and their families. Providing this choice requires that we work towards making every community one of opportunity. This goal — and the affirmatively furthering fair housing rule as a means to achieve it — should fit squarely within President-elect Trump’s urban revitalization plan.”

Email Caroline Feeney

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from NAR, RESPRO and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.