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Forward Thinking: Carson on the Future of Housing

In a Thursday morning full committee hearing titled “The Future of Housing in America: Oversight of the Department of Housing and Urban Development [1]” HUD Secretary Ben Carson was given an opportunity to discuss recent HUD initiatives and his vision for HUD moving forward.

“Since I arrived at HUD in March, it has been my mission to employ the wealth of institutional knowledge held by career staff to improve our services, reform our programs to reflect realities of modern society, and remain careful stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Carson said. “My experiences and interactions with the talented employees of HUD have been extremely gratifying and inspiring.”

During his opening statement, Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) welcomed Carson saying, “[Carson] may be among the most qualified individual to ever serve as HUD secretary. … Not only does he understand poverty personally and viscerally, he understands what it takes to escape it.”

Speaking to the committee, Carson announced HUD's plan for institutional reform and improvement—the FORWARD initiative, with the main initiatives following what Carson called “the three Rs”: Reimagine How HUD Works, Restore the American Dream, and Rethink American Communities.

“While HUD has been around for 50 years, many Americans still struggle to find affordable housing,” Carson said. “The Worst-Case Housing Needs 2017 Report indicates that alarmingly high numbers of Americans continue to pay more than half of their incomes toward rent and/or live in inadequate conditions.”

This was a concern that resonated with Hensarling who outlined in his opening comments that after those 50 years and $1.6 trillion, the poverty rate has remained relatively unchanged.

“After suffering from eight years of bad public policy leading to a sluggish economy barely growing at half of the historic norm, working Americans deserve better,” said Hensarling.

During her opening remarks, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-California) challenged Carson on being able to address what she terms “the worst rental housing crisis” experienced.

“Secretary Carson has expressed views that are deeply alarming and antithetical to his role at HUD, such as describing poverty as ‘more of a choice than anything else,’ and saying he doesn’t think public housing should be too ‘comfortable,’” said Waters.

Carson underscored that the FORWARD initiative is working to better support the needs of the families they serve, noting that a goal of every anti-poverty program should be to help beneficiaries reach prosperity and self-sufficiency.

“Housing assistance must be geared toward this goal through alignment with job training and other forms of support where possible,” Carson said. “This does not mean taking assistance away from those who need HUD—it means doing our job so well that fewer and fewer people require our assistance.”

Carson also spoke to the False Claims Act stating, “We are already addressing that problem [of improper use of the Act]; our staff, along with the DOJ staff. And we’re committed to getting that resolved, because it’s ridiculous, quite frankly,” Carson said in an answer to Rep. Dave Trott (R-Michigan).

To see the full committee hearing, click here [1].

To see Secretary Carson’s prepared remarks detailing the areas HUD is focusing on, click here [2].