• HUD Secretary Ben Carson addressed his staff for the first time since being confirmed on March 2.
  • Carson's address was heavy on the anecdotes, but his themes of American exceptionalism and the bootstraps mentality of Americans provided clues on how he'll run HUD.
  • Carson didn't provide any specific plans except for the fact that he'll be starting his tenure as HUD Secretary with a listening tour.

Newly minted Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson, who was confirmed March 2, addressed HUD staff for the first time today.

During the hour-long address, Carson talked about his how his experience as a famed neurosurgeon prepared him for his new role, the struggle of growing up in a low-income household, and his thoughts on “American exceptionalism.”

“This is America, we’re not like everyone else,” Carson said. “We don’t have to be like everybody else. They should want to be like us.”

Carson spent the majority of the address giving anecdotes about the “bootstraps” mentality of Americans and offered his philosophies about success and morality, but offered no specific plans for the future of fair housing, budget cuts or the status of the mortgage insurance premium reduction.

HUD halted the reduction “indefinitely” an hour after President Trump was sworn in, a decision that the National Association of Realtors expressed disappointment toward.

“Every time we cut the cost of mortgage insurance it means more borrowers meet the debt-to-income ratio required to purchase a home,” NAR president William E. Brown said of the news, noting that NAR would continue making the case to reinstate the cut in the months ahead.

First job — listening

When asked a question about his plans for the Fair Housing Act and how he would further civil rights by a HUD investigator, Carson said: “I’m going to be doing it just how you are — watching what people are doing and listening to what people have to say.”

In response to an employee who asked about public/private partnerships and the future of manufactured housing for poor and low-income citizens, he said: “Make it [public/private partnerships] a win-win situation.”

Carson also noted that citizens “don’t always have to depend on the government” since there’s more money “outside of the government” than inside of it.

The one specific action Carson confirmed was that he’d be starting his tenure with a listening tour to get a firsthand account of the concerns of citizens across the nation.

“One of the first jobs that I want to do is listen,” he said. “We’re going to see what works and what doesn’t work. And we’re going to analyze why something works and why something doesn’t work.”

What about the budget?

Although Carson failed to offer concrete plans at the address, he did offer a few specific thoughts on what he’d do during his confirmation hearing.

When speaking on the budget, Carson said he and his team would need to find a number to cut the budget by, and they’d work out the specifics from there.

“We can never seem to cut, because people have their programs and they say, ‘This one is sacred, and this one is not,’” he said at the hearing. “The point being, if we can find a number on which we can agree and begin to cut back, we can start thinking about fiscal responsibility. Bear in mind, we are approaching a $20 trillion national debt.

At the confirmation hearing, he also expressed his belief that the Fair Housing Act diversity rule was “cookie cutter” and a “central dictation on people’s lives” — a sentiment he doubled down on multiple times throughout his address.

“When we treat people fairly, the need to regulate becomes much, much smaller,” he told his staff.

Email Marian McPherson

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