President-elect Donald Trump’s former rival in the presidential race has been nominated as the next secretary of Housing and Urban Development, his transition team announced Monday.
Ben Carson, a retired surgeon, will lead the federal agency that oversees home mortgage lending and enforces fair housing laws.
“I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Trump said in a statement.
“Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities. We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up.”
Carson, a Detroit native, entered politics for the first time last year when he ran as a Republican candidate for president, though his name made headlines several years earlier for his criticism of President Obama.
In his new role, Carson will take over an agency that is tasked with developing and enforcing fair-housing policies, ending homelessness, addressing climate change and natural disasters and strengthen urban communities as they grow. Though Carson lacks direct experience, his criticisms on the current administration’s fair-housing policies are well-documented.
Last July, Carson wrote in a Washington Times op-edthat Obama’s HUD rule – which sought to desegregate suburbs by penalizing cities that fail to use federal funds to reduce racial disparities – followed the government’s history of failed “mandated social-engineering schemes.”
In a mashup video posted to Salon, Carson, who grew up in public housing,is seen telling a television reporter that he rose above his circumstances by realizing that “poverty is really more of a choice than anything else.”
However, some think Carson’s rags-to-riches success story could help him empathize with those who rely on the agency’s services.
“He has a powerful personal story that could connect him to a lot of families that rely on HUD assistance,” Amy Liu, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute, told The New York Times. “He just needs to use that personal story to listen and empathize — and really learn about the latest innovations in the field.”
For a time, Carson demurred over the role, saying he had “no government experience” and having him as a federal bureaucrat “would be like a fish out of water.”