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Ben Carson’s HUD abandons fighting housing discrimination in new mission statement

Ben Carson wants HUD to do less to improve the housing experience across the country.

CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a new mission statement, thanks to Secretary Ben Carson — and gone is language about creating communities that are inclusive and free from discrimination or working to strengthen the housing market to protect consumers.

According to a memo sent out Monday to HUD’s political staff and obtained by the Huffington Post, the new proposed mission instead focuses on Carson’s priority of “self-sufficiency”:

HUD’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.

The new statement may not be final, as the political staff was invited to submit “comments or suggestions.” Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Amy Thompson said in the memo that “an organization’s mission is never static” and that it “describes an organization’s purpose, what it intends to do, and whom it intends to serve.”

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Juxtaposed with the current mission, however, the new statement seems to be more indicative of what the department will not do. Here’s the version of the mission statement still active on HUD’s website:

HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business.

Carson unveiled his “self-sufficiency” plans back in December, proposing the creation of so-called “EnVision Centers” near public housing developments to promote his four pillars of self-sufficiency: character and leadership, educational advancement, economic empowerment, and health and wellness. He says his goal is to help households “graduate” from requiring HUD-assistance.

That vision became more clear last month, when it was revealed that HUD is proposing legislation that would allow for optional work requirements for individuals to receive federal housing assistance, including housing vouchers, public housing, or project-based rental assistance. The legislation would also increase how much rent recipients of federal assistance owe. Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, condemned the drafted bill as a set of “misguided and cruel proposals to increase rent burdens for millions of the lowest income and most vulnerable seniors, families and people with disabilities.”

While the language change is rhetorical, it’s emblematic of many efforts already underway to undercut HUD’s assistance for those who need it the most.

HUD has delayed implementation of an Obama-era rule that required communities seeking HUD grant funding to complete a study of how segregated their neighborhoods are. Carson has called attempts to integrate neighborhoods, like that rule, “failed socialist experiments.”

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Last year, HUD had also tried to delay implementing another Obama-era rule that would make it easier for low-income people to afford housing in more affluent areas — where there are more job opportunities, lower crime rates, and better schools. In January, however, a federal judge ruled that it must implement the rule now rather than pushing it off for two years.

Insurance companies are challenging yet another Obama-era rule that required them to track whether their policies had a disparate impact on racial minorities. A federal judge has been delaying the case to give Carson and HUD time to rethink the rule so that he can knock it down.

Congress is also taking steps to make it easier to discriminate in housing. Changes to Dodd-Frank’s banking regulations approved just this week in the Senate will ease requirements for data collection about discriminatory lending. Without these reports, it will make it far harder to prove when racial discrimination is taking place in mortgage lending — thus weakening protections against it — even though such discrimination is still rampant.

Carson is a staunch opponent of LGBTQ equality and has been slowly dismantling the LGBTQ protections that HUD established under President Obama — including withdrawing a survey to assess LGBTQ homelessness and eliminating publications that provide guidance on protecting transgender people in homeless shelters. Many of these changes have been made secretly, and just last week, People for the American Way sued HUD to demand the release of documents relating to these changes in policy affecting LGBTQ people.

Carson has called transgender people “the height of absurdity” and said that allowing them to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity amounts to granting them “extra rights.” He also infamously claimed that prison rape is proof that homosexuality is a choice and compared gay people to those who engage in pedophilia and bestiality.

While little of HUD’s efforts seem to be geared toward actually making housing either fair or affordable, Carson recently had to cancel his order for a taxpayer-funded $31,000 dining room set.