Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson is facing heavy criticism for proposed changes to the nation’s federal government housing subsidy system. It’s an “immoral, ill-advised proposal…the latest example of the Trump administration’s war on poor people,” said Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“I would say it’s just the opposite,” Carson said in response. “It is our attempt to give poor people a way out of poverty.”
Under the proposals, residents of low-income housing would have to verify their income every three years instead of yearly, monthly minimum payments would increase from $50 a month to $150 and households would have to contribute 35% of their income toward rent instead of 30%. The last proposal would exclude the elderly and the disabled.
Carson’s proposals also include work requirements which Carson says will “incentivize people.” They also, as Carson says, encourage family unification by making it so that an additional earner can live in the home without disqualifying it from federal assistance. “We’re removing all those kinds of perverse disincentives,” he said.
Carson acknowledges his proposal faces an uphill battle in Congress, which must pass them to have them take effect. The released plan, he says, is the “beginning of a conversation.”
He says however, that he believes recipients of governments assistance will be open to his proposals if they are not presented by “hysterical people who are saying, ‘These people hate you and they’re trying to balance the budget on your back and they don’t care.’”
About 4.7 million low-income, disabled and elderly people rely on HUD programs to help them pay rent. But Carson says the current system discourages work, discourages stable families, is overly complex and is financially unsustainable.
“My best message is to ask yourself: What is your goal in life, and what is your goal for your children? And how can you best achieve that, are you going to achieve that under the current system, or is there a better system that might be more effective?” he asked.
Carson faced criticism in recent months amid allegations he authorized the spending of $31,000 on a dining room set for his HUD office suite. That order was canceled when the story became public. Carson denies approving the purchase.
Carson, a neurosurgeon by trade who had no experience in public housing policy prior to being named HUD Secretary, tacitly admits not being the biggest fan of his current role, but acknowledges its significance.
“I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ would be the right word,” he said. “But I recognize that this is something that is critically important. We’ve got to change this. Because the current system is not sustainable.”
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr