While early polling of the 2020 election suggests a second term for President Donald Trump is far from a sure thing, there’s one administration official who won’t be soldiering on, even if Trump does win—Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson.
Speaking to the conservative news outlet Newsmax in a segment that aired Monday night, Carson said he’ll finish out Trump’s first term but is eyeing a position in the private sector “because I think you have just as much influence, maybe more, there.”
In a statement provided to Curbed by HUD, Carson was more opaque.
“President Donald J. Trump hired me to do a job as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and we are making tremendous progress ensuring our most vulnerable citizens are empowered with a path to self-sufficiency,” Carson’s statement reads. “I always stand ready to serve this great President and the United States of America.”
Carson has been one of the few mainstays in Trump’s cabinet, where turnover has been unusually high, although it is fairly common for cabinet members to leave an administration after a first presidential term is completed.
A retired neurosurgeon, Carson had no apparent relevant experience for the position. An early ProPublica investigation into his tenure revealed Carson was slow to fill open HUD positions and showed little interest in wielding his new influence to address the affordability, segregation, and homelessness crises that have plagued the country.
Instead, Carson has made striking down Obama-era civil rights regulations the centerpiece of his HUD tenure, to varying success. One of HUD’s earliest moves under Carson was to delay the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) rule, an Obama regulation aimed at giving Section 8 housing voucher recipients more choice about where they live.
Vouchers only cover rent up to a “fair market rent,” which is calculated by averaging an entire metro area’s rents. The SAFMR rule excludes from the calculation the outer rims of a metro area, where rents tend to be lower and drive down the average.
Carson and HUD were sued on procedural grounds for the delay and lost, but it didn’t stop Carson’s HUD from trying to delay another anti-segregation rule—the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. For cities and counties that receive federal block grant money, this rule ties receipt of that money to a completed analysis of segregation within the city or county.
Despite being sued on similar procedural grounds as the SAFMR rule, Carson and HUD survived a court challenge on the AFFH rule, and the rule has since been shuttered.
Aside from rolling back civil rights regulations, Carson, in conjunction with the Trump administration, has proposed dramatic cuts to HUD’s budget that would have eliminated popular HUD programs in their entirety, including housing vouchers for veterans and Community Development Block Grants. The proposed cuts have not made it through Congress, however, and HUD’s budget has seen modest increases each of the three years of Trump’s term.
Carson’s signature new initiative at HUD has been so-called EnVision Centers. The idea is to have a center where public housing residents can access services intended to put the residents on a path to “self-sufficiency.” However, the initiative hasn’t gotten off the ground because it’s failed to attract financial support, according to the Washington Post.