Dr. Ben Carson, the former Republican presidential candidate who once called fair housing a "failed socialist experiment," on Monday was officially nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to head the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Poverty and rights organizations are concerned, particularly given the retired neurosurgeon's lack of experience in the area, as well as his politicized view of many of the programs he would be charged with overseeing.
"Under Carson, millions of low-income Americans and residents of color could stand to lose critical protections and housing resources," warns a call-to-action put forth by the Campaign for American Progress.
In particular, a 2015 Obama administration rule that was passed to address systemic racial and income neighborhood segregation, known as the "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" rule, could be first to go.
In a 2015 op-ed in The Washington Times, Carson described that policy as a "government-engineered attemp[t] to legislate racial equality" and lamented that it would force "affordable housing [to] be built primarily in wealthier neighborhoods."
Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement released ahead of the official announcement that Carson's nomination is "surprising and concerning, given his lack of experience with or knowledge of the programs he would oversee." Further, she warned that his aforementioned comments reveal "a fundamental misunderstanding of obligations that have been around since 1968, the year the Fair Housing Act was made law."
Should he be confirmed, Carson "would have wide latitude to shape or slow the rollout of the rule, along with broader enforcement of the Fair Housing Act," noted New York Times columnist Emily Badger.
Badger warned that if the Trump administration nixes the new rule, that would "also fundamentally change the conversation in Washington about how poor, segregated communities came to exist in their current incarnation."
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Mr. Carson and other critics call efforts to dismantle them "social engineering," but these places were created through policies that can themselves be labeled social engineering: redlining that denied blacks mortgages; policies that concentrated public housing in poor, minority communities; government decisions to locate highways that isolated them further. While many of these policies were first put into place decades ago, communities remain shaped by them today.
Carson himself was raised poor in southwest Detroit, but in his biography he rails against "able-bodied...indignant people" who did not work and were reliant on government programs, ignoring many of the policies that led to their condition.
On the campaign trail, the Washington Post pointed out last fall, he frequently discussed his view that current federal policies do a "'horrible job' of helping people work hard and pull themselves up and that low-income people are held back by government regulations, high corporate taxes, and the size of the federal debt."
The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Monday also pointed out Carson's previous remarks about Muslims and the Islamic faith, which he said was "inconsistent with the values and principles of America."
Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR National, warned that such remarks make for troubling leadership.
"Dr. Carson's views on Islam, American Muslims, and the world," Awad said, "are dangerously ill-informed and could negatively impact any government agency he heads."