Secretary Carson Testifies Before Senate Banking Committee
HUD Secretary Ben Carson recently testified at a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Senators from both parties questioned the Trump administration’s proposals to increase rents, decrease funding, and stall fair housing laws. And Secretary Carson faced criticisms from Congressional Democrats over HUD spending, specifically his involvement in the agency’s decision to order a $31,000 dining set for his office.
During his opening remarks, Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) criticized the proposal to reduce HUD’s budget and impose rent increases. He questioned the logic in cutting affordable housing programs at a time when one out of four renters pay more than 50 percent of their income on housing expenses. During questioning, Dr. Carson acknowledged that the families who would be affected by rent increases are those already living on the edge, making less than $10,000 annually.
Senator Brown also noted it was “extremely disturbing” to read about controversies at the department. “Under your leadership, Secretary Carson, HUD has decided a wobbly chair in a private D.C. dining room requires the urgent attention of no fewer than 16 staffers and thousands, thousands of taxpayer dollars,” Brown said. “Unsafe and unsanitary conditions in public housing that puts working children and families at risk? Not our problem, you say, let them use vouchers.”
Committee members also asked Secretary Carson to explain HUD’s recent actions concerning fair housing. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), asked Secretary Carson about the department’s decision to revise its mission statement, potentially removing language about antidiscrimination programs. In response, Secretary Carson defended his decision earlier this year to suspend the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. He said the decision came after municipalities complained about compliance costs. He also rejected assertions that proposed changes to HUD’s mission statement deleting language related to creating “inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination” suggested an intent to ignore the agency’s statutory fair housing obligations. He said the draft that removed the antidiscrimination language would be changed only after receiving feedback from HUD employees.