On March 20, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) held a hearing with HUD Secretary Ben Carson on the Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 HUD budget. In his opening testimony, Secretary Carson discussed his vision to promote self-sufficiency for low-income individuals while driving down the costs to the federal government. He suggested that HUD’s proposed $41.2 billion budget was sufficient to continue to serve HUD-assisted households, and argued that the Department must pivot away from failed models, such as Public Housing, that require more federal money every year. Carson called the Rental Assistance Demonstration program (RAD) an effective alternative to Public Housing and noted that the FY 2019 Budget encourages more RAD conversions. Carson also highlighted HUD’s EnVision Center demonstration project, intended to leverage public and private resources for the benefit of individuals and families living in HUD-assisted housing.
Subcommittee members asked Secretary Carson to explain the Administration’s proposed elimination of key affordable housing programs, including the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, and cuts to other successful programs like Housing Counseling. Carson responded to each of these inquiries by suggesting that the federal deficit has grown too high, and that tough decisions had to be made. He added that the Opportunity Zones program, established as part of the recently enacted tax reform legislation, could serve in place of HOME and CDBG. When pushed further on the proposed cuts, Carson acknowledged that Congress makes all funding decisions, and that HUD would responsibly administer whatever funds are appropriated to them.
Secretary Carson also expressed his concern that the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) information systems were outdated and may interfere with FHA’s mission to support homeownership. He urged Congress to appropriate additional funds so HUD could make targeted improvements.
Throughout the hearing, several Subcommittee members also questioned Carson about his involvement in the recent order of a $31,000 dining set. Carson’s testimony reflected that neither he nor his wife had any involvement with the purchase and that he has established a task force to combat fiscal mismanagement at the agency.