Carson, a neurosurgeon by trade, turned presidential candidate who was often at odds with Trump during his party's nominations until the two "buried the hatchet," will be charged with running the mammoth and critically important Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
"I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot of time there, and have dealt with a lot of patients from that area and recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities," Carson said. "I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need."
But outside of real estate and political circles, many people still don't understand what HUD does – and why it's so important to the housing market for tens of millions of Americans.
HUD was first created as a cabinet-level agency in 1965 with a mission to “create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.”
The agency carries out that mission by overseeing affordable-housing programs and enforcing fair housing legislation.
HUD actually runs over 100 programs and sub-programs to do that, but a few of its more notable branches include the Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, which helps people of modest means qualify for home loans and achieve homeownership.
HUD plays a vital role in ensuring that families of low-income and humble means have access to good, safe homes and neighborhoods, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity and the like. It does this through sub-programs like the Section 8 housing choice voucher program cities use to offer subsidized housing to the poor, and enforcing the Fair Housing Act that made housing discrimination illegal as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
One of its most important roles is overseeing the distribution of money for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, giving funds to cities for redevelopment of distressed communities after natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes. The CDBG also distributes funds to municipalities and states for other redevelopment and community projects that benefit low and moderate income housing.
The CDBG by itself is a huge program, disseminating almost $3 billion every year to 1,000 local communities in the U.S. In fact, since the program was enacted in 1975, the CDBG has given out more than $200 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars!
In fact, rampant spending without data to prove the efficacy of programs like the CDBG are the root criticisms of the agency – and the reason President Trump will rely on HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson to revamp it. Critics on both sides of the political aisle have raised concern over the size and nearly unlimited spending by HUD, which for many years received federal funding larger than both the Department of Justice and Department of Education. In 2015, HUD garnered $32 billion in taxpayer money, $8 billion more than the DOJ and almost five times more than the Environmental Protection Agency.
Despite these colossal outlays of funds, since 2000, the number of high-poverty neighborhoods in the U.S. has actually doubled under HUD’s watch, not been reduced.
Will the newly appointed Dr. Ben Carson be the man to change all that? President Trump certainly things so:
"Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities," Trump said in a statement. "We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities."
Carson, who grew up in a blighted neighborhood in Detroit and was raised by a single mother, worked his way out of poverty, becoming a neurosurgeon by his 30s. But while his rags-to-riches story resonated with voters and many average Americans during his run for the Republican nomination, many question whether it means he's suited to be HUD secretary. In fact, Carson has no prior experience working in housing, governmental agencies or as a community organizer.
That’s a profound deviation from most of our past HUD secretaries who were rich in political and community experience. George Romney, who served under Richard M. Nixon, was a governor; Jack Kemp, who served under George Bush, was a congressman; Henry Cisneros, who served under Bill Clinton, was a mayor; and so was Julian Castro, Obama’s current HUD secretary.
But chances are the Trump will be pulling the strings on any HUD overhaul, not Carson, since our president is probably the most notable real estate investor and mogul in American history. What will the next four years look like for HUD under Trump and Carson? Analysts, housing experts, and many average Americans are waiting with bated breath!