Time for Bold Thinking at the Housing and Urban Development Department

If we are truly committed to providing lower income Americans with access to affordable housing, bold and decisive action is needed. Tinkering around the edges just won’t do. So argues Edward Pinto, a housing expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank in Washington, D.C.

And now that neurosurgeon Ben Carson has recently been confirmed as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Pinto is feeling optimistic that the new administration may provide a fresh perspective and direction to an agency that desperately needs to change course.

Responsible for managing a budget of over $40 billion and a staff of over 7,000, Carson, the former presidential candidate who ran as a limited government conservative, will be immediately tested to see if he can steer a large agency that has grown in size and scope since its inception.

Carson will be immediately tested to see if he can steer a large agency that has grown in size and scope since its inception.

Carson’s first remarks as a newly minted HUD secretary seemed to suggest that he plans to run the department as a conservative politician preaching the gospel of self-reliance.

“This is America,” Carson said. “This used to be known as the can-do society, not the what can you do for me society.”

Helping the secretary is his remarkable life story that included growing up in public housing in Detroit, Michigan before eventually graduating from Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School.

Carson went on to complete his residency in neuroscience at the prestigious John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. His rags to riches story led to national acclaim, including receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, given to him by President Barack Obama.

One of the first ways Secretary Carson can change the culture at HUD, Pinto says, is by encouraging greater involvement by the private sector.

“We need to rely more in the private sector. That’s how things get done in this country.”

“The problem is that we’ve had too much government,” Pinto said. “We need to rely more in the private sector. That’s how things get done in this country.”

To make his point, Pinto explained that every year millions of automobiles are sold — a costly purchase for most, but entirely possible for those willing to work and save to finance its purchase. For Pinto, less government intrusion in the housing market would lead to fewer distortions and price inflations that inhibit much of what the Housing Department was intended to do, which is expand affordable housing in the country.

Carson seems to understand this. “We don’t necessarily have to always depend on the government and government financing,” he told his audience. “There’s a lot more money outside of government than there is inside of government.”

less government intrusion in the housing market would lead to fewer distortions and price inflations that inhibit much of what the Housing Department was intended to do, which is expand affordable housing in the country.

That observation was largely overshadowed by Carson’s remarks comparing African slaves to “immigrants” — remarks that were quickly panned on social media and a number of media outlets, despite ample evidence that former President Barack Obama also referred to slaves as immigrants.

Apart from greater public-private involvement, nonprofits and faith-based organizations are also expressing hope for the future in federal housing policy under Carson. As Opportunity Lives has been detailing, charities across the country are working to equip the formerly incarcerated and the homeless with the means to acquire important job training skills and employment opportunities.

Many of these organizations are proving that their model of deeply personal and customized support for those in need is working. And although federal dollars would help, some are also saying that they would stand to benefit by less government rules and mandates.

In the same remarks, Carson announced that he would be crisscrossing the country as part of a listening tour to learn about what is working at the local level. “I believe in always giving the first pass to the people who are actually involved as opposed to imposing upon them from above,” he said.

Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter: @IzzyOrtega.