Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is an unusual choice for HUD secretary.
Carson, 65, is a retired neurosurgeon and author with no professional housing policy experience. A onetime Trump rival who became a key surrogate after dropping out of the Republican primaries, Carson also does not have significant management experience.
If confirmed, Carson will run a federal agency with an annual budget of roughly $50 billion and 8,000 employees.
HUD is in charge of public housing and rental assistance programs that impact 5 million families, oversees the Federal Housing Administration and Community Development Block Grant program, and enforces fair housing laws.
A majority of past HUD secretaries served in local, state or federal government before leading the agency, which was created in 1965.
Robert Weaver, the first HUD secretary — and the first African-American cabinet member in U.S. history — was a former Roosevelt administration official, and a former vice-chairman of the New York City Housing and Redevelopment Board.
Alphonso Jackson, who served as HUD secretary under George W. Bush, had previously run the Dallas Housing Authority. The agency’s current secretary, Julián Castro, is a former mayor of San Antonio.
Though Carson has a different professional background, he grew up in public housing in Detroit. In a recent Fox News interview, Carson cited that experience as his chief qualification for serving as housing secretary.
Here is a list of Carson’s few past comments on housing and urban policy. They offer the most insight, so far, into how he would run the housing agency under Trump.
“I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met.” — Carson’s statement after Trump nominated him as HUD secretary on Dec. 5, 2016.
“I grew up in an inner city and have spent a lot of time there, and have dealt with a lot of patients in that area, and recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities.” — Fox News interview on Nov. 22, 2016.
Last year, Carson criticized a new Obama administration fair housing law, calling it a “government-engineered” takeover:
“These attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse. There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens, but based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous.” — Op-ed in The Washington Times, July 23, 2015.
On a separate occasion last year, Carson criticized a Section 8 housing program in Iowa:
“It really is not compassionate to pat people on the head and say, ‘There, there you poor little thing, I’m going to take care of all your needs, your healthcare, your food, and your housing, don’t you worry about anything.’” — Speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 26, 2015.