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Dr. Ben Carson: New HUD Secretary - Part 2

What Does Carson Bring to HUD?
Housing experts are still speculating what changes Carson may bring. Experts base their predictions for Carson's agenda on a document that he released during his campaign, which called for major scaling back and outright elimination of federal programs that he felt were unnecessary, inefficient, or wasteful. Analysts are a bit concerned about another proposed change revealed in the six-page document: privatizing federal mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Should this happen, it would reduce the number of mortgages that were formerly guaranteed by the U.S Treasury Department, making it harder for low-income borrowers to gain mortgage approval. First-time homebuyers would be hit hard since mortgages on the private market do not offer the same lending capacity and have higher rates.

Carson's statements to date reveal general trends, but few specifics. He has spoken publicly about the need to engage the private sector in solving housing issues and taken a skeptical approach toward policies designed to produce greater racial integration, specifically criticizing an Obama-era initiative that required communities to study patterns of race and income disparity in housing. He has voiced concern that social “safety net” programs can encourage dependency. While Carson has been critical of many existing programs, he has indicated strong support for basic housing support, stating, “I think the rental assistance program is essential… when it comes to entitlement programs, it is cruel and unusual punishment to cut those programs for providing an alternative route."[1] Carson's personal beliefs will have an impact on policy, but they will not be the only factor guiding housing policy under the Trump administration. Congress has lots of authority over HUD programs and the HUD budget, and the proposed budget slices HUD funding by over $6 billion. Some observers, including Alphonso Jackson, who ran the Agency under the administration of President George W. Bush, have suggested that Carson relies heavily on his senior staff, which would provide greater program continuity.[2]

Ben Carson brings a unique combination of background and belief to his new position. His experience with poverty and his rise to professional prominence have made him a firm believer in individual initiative and left him with a deep suspicion of government-centered anti-poverty programs. At the same time, that background has left him with a deep sympathy for America's urban poor. Those factors will combine with input from Congress and the President and with the current direction of HUD to produce a new set of policies. Those policies are still emerging, and those who are currently involved with HUD programs or considering becoming involved will watch the next year with a keen interest in the evolving direction.