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On January 12, the Senate Banking, House and Urban Affairs Committee started confirmation hearings for Ben Carson, who President-elect Donald Trump nominated to lead the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
But not everyone is happy about the prospect of Carson leading the 8,300-person department.
Hundreds of architects, urban planners, housing experts, and academics across the US have signed an open petition in opposition to Carson’s confirmation. The letter was sent to Senators Michael Crapo and Sherrod Brown on January 10.
Signees include Sharon Paley, Deputy Director at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Government Excellence, David Harris, Managing Director of Harvard’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, and David Smiley, Assistant Director of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
The authors of the petition assert that Carson, a former neurosurgeon and Republican presidential nominee, has no direct experience in housing policy or urban planning – a critique many others have pointed out as well. In November, Carson declined Trump’s invitation to join the presidential cabinet, but later reversed his stance.
“Apart from his personal views on a variety of political and social issues, we consider Dr. Carson completely unqualified to anticipate or promote appropriate solutions to the pressing housing and urban development needs facing our country,” the petition reads. “Created in 1965 to further the nation’s housing and urban revitalization agenda, HUD’s role has been to implement the nation’s housing goal, first articulated by Congress in 1949: ‘a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.’ Sadly, this goal has not yet been realized. It remains, nevertheless, an aspiration that HUD is obligated to manifest, and one that will be greatly undermined should the US Senate confirm Dr. Ben Carson.”
The petition also notes that Carson has “expressed disdain for HUD’s mission” to reduce discrimination faced by non-white, disabled, LGBT, and other households seeking affordable housing. It adds that Carson has “displayed a lack of understanding of poverty and the role of government.”
“We believe that the appointment of Dr. Carson would severely jeopardize the well-being of the nearly 5 million households across the country for whom HUD is their only means of securing housing,” the letter concludes. “We strongly urge you to decline to confirm Dr. Ben Carson as HUD Secretary.”