Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Nomination Of Benjamin Carson To Be Secretary Of The Department Of Housing And Urban Development

The Department of Housing and Urban Development plays a vital role ensuring that all Americans have access to safe affordable housing.  Affordable housing should not be a political issue.  It is a moral issue.  Programs like Section 8 and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program keep families in their homes, and support and maintain affordable housing.  That is not up for debate. 

I am disappointed that President Trump did not look to our knowledgeable housing advocates across the country to identify a qualified, experienced nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and instead nominated Dr. Ben Carson to this important position. In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Dr. Carson, like many nominees, said the right things.  He made the right promises.  I want to believe that he will fulfill those commitments.

Programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development keep shelter over the heads of our nation’s struggling and low-income families.  They combat homelessness among adults and children alike by building and maintaining affordable housing and helping families buy their first homes.  I am proud of the progress we have made in Vermont and across the nation through programs implemented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  During his confirmation hearing, Dr. Carson testified to the crucial role of rental assistance programs.  He pledged to be an advocate for funding for housing assistance programs.  He turned away from his previous call for a 10 percent across-the-board cut to housing programs.  I hope that Dr. Carson will fulfill these commitments.

I continue to have concerns regarding Dr. Carson’s seeming animosity toward the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule, which he called a ‘failed socialist experiment’ in an op-ed in the Washington Times.  While Dr. Carson tried to minimize those comments in his hearing, I remain concerned that Dr. Carson doesn’t understand the AFFH rule.  This rule asks cities and towns receiving federal dollars to look at their housing patterns to identify racial bias and to take action to rectify any bias they find.  Dr. Carson has called it social engineering.  I call it social justice and support the examination of policies to promote equality and eliminate discrimination.  During his confirmation hearing, he pledged to enforce our fair housing laws.  I believe this includes upholding the AFFH.

I am concerned that Dr. Carson lacks the necessary experience to successfully serve as our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  He will be confirmed, of that there is no doubt. I hope that Dr. Carson will work with both sides of the aisle to further the mission of the Department, strengthen the successful programs that keep families in their homes, build and support and maintain affordable housing in Vermont and across the nation, and help first-time home buyers realize their homeownership goals.  

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