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Dr. Ben Carson: New HUD Secretary

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for a range of housing-related programs with a tremendous impact on low and moderate-income Americans. The appointment of Dr. Ben Carson as HUD Secretary may signal a new change in the Agency's direction and services. Policies are still evolving, but here's a short profile of the new Secretary and what changes he may bring.

With the inauguration of a new president in 2017 came changes to various influential positions in Washington, including the appointment of Dr. Ben Carson as the secretary of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the agency responsible for assisting citizens with obtaining affordable housing and that boasts an annual budget of $47 billion. HUD operates the Federal Housing Administration, which helps low-income borrowers get home loans and distributes Community Development Block Grants that provide funding for rebuilding and developing communities in the wake of natural disasters.

While many Americans had come to know Ben Carson during the heat of 2016's presidential campaign, his appointment as HUD Secretary by President Donald Trump left more than a few people scratching their heads. What is Ben Carson's background, and how will his new role affect low-income homeowners and prospective homeowners who depend on the Agency's programs?

Humble Beginnings
Ben Carson's mother Sonya married at the age of 13, moving with her husband Robert from her home in Tennessee to Detroit, Michigan. The couple had sons, Ben and Curtis, but later divorced when Sonya discovered that Robert Carson was a bigamist with a second family. Carson's mother struggled to raise two children on her own, sometimes working three jobs to make ends meet. She pushed her sons to excel in school, instilling in Carson a love of reading that would eventually spur him on to academic greatness.

Professional Success
Carson went on to attend Yale University on a full scholarship, attaining a psychology degree in 1973 before enrolling in the University of Michigan's School of Medicine, and later interning at Johns Hopkins University beginning in 1977. There, his impressive surgical skills landed him the appointment of chief neurosurgery resident, a position he held until he took a position at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital located in Perth, Australia, where Carson further honed his surgical prowess.

In 1984, he returned to his post at Johns Hopkins, moving up the ranks to become the youngest ever U.S. physician to hold the position of pediatric neurosurgery director in 1985. Carson's next claim to fame came in 1987 when he made history by separating 7-month-old conjoined German twins, the first such successful surgery at the time. Carson went on to make headlines with his work in separating other conjoined twins.

Carson is the author of several books, including his autobiography "Gifted Hands," published in 1990. The Library of Congress selected him as a Living Legend in 2000, and he was named one of 20 leading physicians in the United States in 1991. He has also received various medals and accommodations for his pioneering work in neurosurgery, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received in 2008 from then President George Bush.

Political Aspirations
In the political arena, Carson first drew attention at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast when he publicly criticized sitting President Barack Obama's policies, sealing his reputation as a conservative Republican. He retired from medicine the same year and took a job as a contributor at Fox News. He went on to publish "One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America's Future" in 2014, one year before launching his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, noting that he was not a politician, but that he wanted to do "what's right."

As the field of candidates dwindled in the months leading up to the Republican National Convention, Carson became a frontrunner. However, his campaign did not resonate enough with voters to shore up popular support, and he dropped out in March of 2016. Carson went on to encourage his supporters to shift their focus to front-runner Donald Trump. He went on to support Trump, campaigning for him around the nation.

Despite Carson's lack of experience running a federal agency, then-President-elect Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Carson for secretary of HUD in December of 2016, noting that Carson was "passionate about strengthening communities and families" and that he has a "brilliant mind." Carson's nomination passed the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in January of 2017 and was confirmed by the Senate.

HUD Appointment
Carson's selection for HUD secretary became an immediate source of criticism. Detractors say that he lacks the experience required for the job, a sentiment once echoed by Carson's spokesperson, who went on the record saying that Carson would never want to hold a position running a federal agency. Nevertheless, Carson later noted that his upbringing made him particularly suited to the position.

In rationalizing his decision, President Trump pointed out that Carson was on board with his "urban renewal agenda" and his "message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities." Carson posted on social media that the country had a lot of work to do and that part of that work was "ensuring that both our physical infrastructure and our spiritual infrastructure is solid."