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Letter to the Editor: Ben Carson is repeating mistakes on housing

Originally published in The Washington Post, July 1, 2019

Local zoning laws prohibiting communities from building apartments exacerbate the housing crisis and maintain segregated communities. An effort by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to address restrictive zoning would be welcomed if it weren’t belied by his other actions to gut affordable and fair housing [“The right prescription for affordable housing,” Friday Opinion, June 28].

Mr. Carson once decried efforts to “fundamentally change the nature of some communities from primarily single-family to largely apartment-based areas,” a classic NIMBY sentiment. As HUD secretary, he dismantled the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule that gave communities incentives to reduce restrictive zoning. He would exacerbate the housing crisis with his proposals to slash HUD’s budget, eliminate housing production and preservation programs, increase rents for some of the lowest-income people and evict 55,000 American children from subsidized housing.

Mr. Carson’s “prescription” for affordable housing is familiar. HUD secretaries under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush also studied regulatory reform and cut funding for programs that affordably housed extremely low-income people. Action to eliminate restrictive local zoning must be coupled with solutions to house the lowest-income people through strong resident protections and investments in the Housing Trust Fund and rental assistance. Anything less continues on our current path to increased homelessness and housing poverty.

Diane Yentel, Washington

The writer is president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.