Q&A: Dr. Ben Carson Tackles HUD Budget Cut Concerns

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – President Donald Trump has recommended the Housing and Urban Development Department make massive cuts to its budget.

CBS4 Anchor Rudabeh Shahbazi spoke with HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson about whether that will lead to homelessness and what he plans to do differently.

Here is their conversation:

RS: President Trump has recommended cutting the HUD budget by 13 percent, or more than $6 billion.  The National Low Income Housing Initiative estimates that under that plan, more than 200,000 seniors, families, people with disabilities, might be at immediate risk of eviction and homelessness.  What’s your response to that?

BC: There is going to be a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure bill, and housing is a very significant portion of that. And so I don’t think that there’s going to be anybody who needs to worry about being thrown out on the streets. We’re very concerned about that, but we’re also concerned about efficiency and effectiveness.

RS: Dr. Carson, the last time we saw HUD cuts like this was in the 80s during the Reagan Administration, and that did lead to an explosion of homelessness across the country. Many of those people were suffering from mental illness. Can you say for certain, that these cuts will not lead to an increase in homelessness?

BC: I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t, and I certainly received those same assurances from the president and from Mr. Mulvaney, so I really don’t think it’s going to happen.

RS: You’ve said in the past that public housing can lead to dependence on public housing long-term, down the road, in the future, and that it’s best to help people get back on their feet, so what is the plan to help them do that?

BC: Well, there are a number of initiatives. One of things that I really am emphasizing is Section 3, which requires that anybody receiving HUD funds make an attempt to employ particularly the low income people in the area. It’s been largely ignored across the country, principally because people don’t have skills. But we need to take another look at that and recognize that, generally, at least a year before a major construction program or renovation program, we know about it. And it’s possible to get in there and begin to train people at that time, so that when the project actually starts, you have a viable workforce, and that workforce can also be used for other infrastructure projects. And you’re also conveying to people a skill that is not transferable, that they will keep with them, which will allow them to climb the ladders of opportunity in this country.

RS: So can we talk about that specifically? What you think has been successful and what has been ineffective, and what you plan to keep, specifically?

BC: One of the ways that I really would like to enhance those programs is by taking a small sliver of each monthly subside and putting it into a special savings account associated with each unit, and the various parts of the maintenance of that unit come out of that money. So, for instance, if somebody needs to have their door painted every week because it’s always scratched up, it comes out of that money. But if there’s very little in the way of maintenance that has to be done, the money continues to accumulate, and each unit has access to how much money there is there. And if they leave public housing in five to 10 years, they get the money for a down payment on a house of their choosing.

RS: Secretary Carson, thank you very much for joining me today.

BC: A pleasure, thank you.

More from Rudabeh Shahbazi
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