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President-Elect Trump Nominates Ben Carson To Run HUD


Donald Trump's latest Cabinet pick is a man who was once his rival for the presidency. Ben Carson is the president-elect's choice to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. Carson's personal story makes him well-suited for the role, his experience less so. Carson is a medical doctor who has never run a government agency.

Amy Liu worked at HUD during the Clinton administration, and she now directs the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Welcome to the program.

AMY LIU: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: As Housing and Urban Development secretary, Ben Carson is going to oversee a lot of federal assistance programs. Describe the positions he has taken on those programs in the past.

LIU: Well, Ben Carson's public statements on housing have created alarm bells for the community. One is that he has come out against the importance of the federal government enforcing fair housing per the 1968 Fair Housing Act. He calls such efforts social engineering.

And secondly, he has said that poverty is a choice and doesn't recognize a lot of low-income people have worked really hard and still find structural barriers that keep them in low-income neighborhoods.

SHAPIRO: So his position on these programs is one question. Another question is his experience or more specifically his lack of experience. Do you anticipate that that might be a problem?

LIU: I think the fact that he grew up in poverty in one of the most quintessential urban cities, Detroit, gives him a platform and a personal story that allows him to connect with a lot of the families and elected officials that he serves. The challenge is the extent to which he can really bring that experience to be open-minded to the latest innovations that have occurred in the housing and urban development space.

One of the things I would say to him is to go spend time in your home city of Detroit. Detroit in the last five years has gone through a great renaissance because of the positive role that government has had in helping to support that city's renewal, whether it's thinking about how to rebuild blighted properties, link land use and transit access to low-income neighborhoods. So there's a lot of things that he can then take into his role as HUD secretary.

SHAPIRO: You describe urban regeneration that we've seen in a lot of cities. Donald Trump has described urban centers as a disaster. Are they a disaster?

LIU: Well, I do give the Trump administration credit for identifying the need to improve our inner cities and urban neighborhoods. And in fact, in the last decade, we have seen the number of high-poverty neighborhoods nearly double both in the cities and in the suburbs. So this is an area that is going to be of concern for the next HUD secretary. But even here, there are a lot of innovations underway that Ben Carson could really begin to learn from.

SHAPIRO: Is the job of Housing and Urban Development secretary something that really requires prior experience in Housing and Urban Development, or is it the kind of thing where it's pretty easy to just learn on the fly?

LIU: I do not think this is an easy job. I think understanding the forces that impact poverty is very complex, and cities themselves are complicated communities. One of the most important things the next HUD secretary needs to do is work with their peers at commerce, transportation, in job training and labor.

SHAPIRO: It sounds like you're saying Ben Carson's life experience might not be enough to prepare him for this job.

LIU: (Laughter) I think that he is going to have to enter this job with a lot of open minds and questions and learning from innovators in the field.

SHAPIRO: That's Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution. Thank you so much for talking with us.

LIU: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.