Dr. Ben S. Carson Sr. was officially sworn in as the 17th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Thursday.
Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office, with Secretary Carson’s wife Candy and granddaughter Tesora holding the bible.
Secretary Carson will now lead a cabinet agency with approximately 8,000 employees and an annual budget totaling more than $40 billion.
Among his first actions in his new role, Secretary Carson plans an ambitious listening tour of select communities and HUD field offices around the country, beginning in his native Detroit, according to a HUD release.
“I am immensely grateful and deeply humbled to take on such an important role in service to the American people,” Carson said in the release. “Working directly with patients and their families for many years taught me that there is a deep relationship between health and housing. I learned that it’s difficult for a child to realize their dreams if he or she doesn’t have a proper place to live, and I’ve seen firsthand how poor housing conditions can rob a person of their potential. I am excited to roll up my sleeves and to get to work.”
Carson previously served for more than 30 years as director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. He has received dozens of honors and awards in recognition of his achievements including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He is also a recipient of the Spingarn Medal, which is the highest honor bestowed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
When Carson was first nominated for the post, some questioned whether he had the appropriate background to lead HUD. In December, shortly after he was nominated, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a top Democrat, said Carson is “woefully unqualified” to lead the department and pointed out that he has never worked in the federal government.
Others, however, have pointed out that past HUD secretaries have had little prior experience in the housing market before taking on the role.
In a statement he gave in December in response to the concerns over his qualifications, Carson said, “I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met.”
HUD’s release points out that Carson was “born to a single mother with a third grade education who worked multiple jobs to support the family.”
In a statement, David Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), said Carson’s “commitment to bolster America’s real estate markets and assist communities nationwide will serve him well in his new role. [The] MBA looks forward to working with the Secretary and his team at HUD to ensure that families all across our country have access to safe, decent and affordable housing.”
Peter Bell, president and CEO of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, said Carson’s “lifelong commitment to improving the well-being of children and families offers [him] a unique perspective on the housing programs he will oversee in his new position, including FHA’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program.
“For nearly three decades, FHA has insured HECM reverse mortgage loans for homeowners aged 62 and older, and helped more than a million seniors to age in place,” Bell added. “We look forward to working with the Secretary and his new leadership team in support of the program.”
William E. Brown, president of the National Association of Realtors, said “Dr. Carson should be proud of his achievement. The task at hand is a big one, and we applaud his commitment to the challenges that lie ahead.”
“Homeownership helps build communities and build wealth for families,” Brown added. “And we know that the policies set in Washington can make a real difference for Americans as they work to realize their dream of homeownership.
“We’re committed to helping them get there, which means addressing the hurdles that buyers, current homeowners and investors face in the marketplace,” he continued. “Housing inventories are tight and mortgage credit is hard to come by, and at the same time far too many buyers are saddled with high rents and student debt that stand in the way of saving for a down payment. We look forward to working with Secretary Carson to meet these challenges head on.”