No one has any idea what Carson thinks about housing policy, writes Henry Grabar at Slate.
"No one has any idea what Carson thinks about housing policy," writes Henry Grabar at Slate. Albert H. Teich/Shutterstock

In keeping with his ongoing cabinet picks, President-elect Donald Trump has selected a man with no government experience and no apparent real ideas about housing policy to head the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As Seattle and the entire West Coast face a worsening housing and homelessness crisis, the appointment is one of serious consequence for states like ours.

The New York Times:

With no experience in government or running a large bureaucracy, Mr. Carson, 65, publicly waffled over whether to join the administration. He will oversee an agency with a $47 billion budget, bringing to the job a philosophical opposition to government programs that encourage what he calls “dependency” and engage in “social engineering.”

He has no expertise in housing policy, but he did spend part of his childhood in public housing, said a close friend, Armstrong Williams, and he was raised by a dauntless mother with a grammar-school education. In his autobiography he stressed that individual effort, not government programs, were the key to overcoming poverty.

In an email to The Stranger, Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray, who has vowed to fight some of Trump's other nominees, says Carson "is the wrong choice to lead such a critically important agency that directly affects so many vulnerable citizens" and she will oppose his nomination. (As will plenty of Democrats, likely to no avail.)

"Families across our state, and in Seattle in particular, are struggling with an affordable housing crisis that cannot be understated," Murray says, "and the person who sets our national policy can actually be the difference between families—including homeless veterans and their families, and survivors of domestic violence—having safe homes or sleeping on the streets."

In a statement last month (after initial but disputed reports surfaced of Trump offering Carson the job), the National Low Income Housing Coalition called the pick "surprising and concerning."

While Carson's plans for the agency are unclear, he has compared Section 8 housing regulations to "what you see in communist countries" and said housing subsidies and other programs can "rob someone of their incentive to go out there and improve themselves." Last year, he called fair housing rules a form of "social engineering."

Housing authorities funded by HUD serve more than 100,000 people across Washington State, according to Murray's office. In King County last year, 25,000 people depended on federally funded Section 8 vouchers—71 percent of whom have jobs. Homelessness in King County grew 19 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Carson's "past statements suggest he rejects the essential functions of HUD and will work against us as we fight to strengthen programs that give families a hand up during their time of need," Murray says. "Unless I hear a dramatic change in Dr. Carson’s views of the federal government’s role in supporting safe, affordable housing, I will oppose his nomination."