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Senate Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing on Dr. Ben Carson

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee held a confirmation hearing on Dr. Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the HUD on Thursday, January 12.

Dr. Carson cited his experience living in poverty in Detroit and Boston, and he spoke about the need to invest in all Americans in order to allow our country to compete globally. He focused his testimony on the connection between health and housing, the regulatory barriers to affordable housing, and the role of the federal government in promoting economic mobility. “Everyone should have a decent roof over their heads, and get treatment, job training or whatever they need to help them achieve self-sufficiency. This strengthens our nation and lightens the load for all.” Throughout the hearing, Dr. Carson highlighted the critical role of federal housing programs but stressed the need to look for greater efficiencies and a more holistic approach to addressing poverty.

Dr. Carson announced that, if confirmed, he plans to organize a listening tour to hear from advocates and practitioners and put together a “world class” plan to address the nation’s affordable housing crisis.

In response to a question from Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID), Dr. Carson spoke about his experience working in low-income communities, such as in East Baltimore surrounding Johns Hopkins Hospital. He told the Committee that while serving at Johns Hopkins, he came to better understand the intersection between health and housing, citing examples of patients who had been exposed to lead paint or who had developed asthma as a result of their housing conditions. “My goal is to get everyone into a decent [housing] situation, 100% of them.”

Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) pressed Dr. Carson on his public statements on fair housing, including a 2015 op-ed in which Carson called the Fair Housing Act’s requirement that communities affirmatively further fair housing “social engineering.” In response, Dr. Carson committed to enforcing anti-discrimination laws, stating, “If confirmed, I would enforce all of the laws of the land” and “the Fair Housing Act was one of the best pieces of legislation.”

Dr. Carson spoke about the need for compassion. “America has a history of being compassionate. Of course, I feel strongly that we should do everything we can, not only because we’re compassionate, but because we recognize that every person that we do not develop is one person whose talent is not contributing to our nation.”

Dr. Carson reiterated his support, however, for President-elect Trump’s “Penny Plan” that would cut non-defense discretionary spending, including funding for affordable housing programs, by 1% each year for 10 years. Given the inflationary costs of providing housing assistance, which responds to rising costs in the private market, such a cut in funding would have devastating impacts on those who receive housing assistance and those in need of such assistance.

Read Dr. Carson’s written testimony at: http://bit.ly/2jHBVQH

Read NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel’s statement about the hearing at: http://nlihc.org/press/releases/7415