President-elect Donald Trump has nominated retired neurosurgeon, outspoken Obamacare opponent and former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson for the position of U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
By tapping Carson for the position, Trump diverges once again from the “norm” of appointing individuals with bureaucratic experience in government areas.
If confirmed by the Senate, Carson will replace Julian Castro, who has held the position since July 2014 after having served as mayor of San Antonio. Castro himself replaced Shaun Donovan, who headed HUD from 2009 until 2014 and prior to that led the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Not surprisingly, the choice of Carson has been criticized by myriad media outlets complaining that his childhood in the inner city of Detroit does not, on its own, qualify him for the position. Carson’s own recent PR is not helping make the case, either, as a representative suggested in one interview with The Hill that he “has never run a federal agency” and would not want to “take a position that could cripple the presidency.” Publications that take this statement out of context and attribute it directly to Carson are being misleading, however, since his business manager Armstrong Williams is actually the source of the quote.
Trump cited Carson’s “brilliant mind and [passion for] strengthening communities and families within those communities” as talents that he will bring to the job. He added, “We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities.”
After dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination, Carson—recipient in 2008 of the Presidential Medal of Freedom—campaigned for and with the president-elect in areas like Flint and Detroit, Michigan. As HUD secretary, Carson could be tasked with moving Trump’s stated goals for urban renewal forward, including assisting with the logistical aspects of creating tax holidays for inner city investments, converting some housing-related forms of “poverty assistance into forgivable and repayable micro-loans” (as described on the campaign trail) and participating in advocacy for economically weakened communities throughout the country.
It is difficult to say how Carson’s appointment will immediately affect real estate policy, regulation and legislation, and even more difficult to delineate how his tenure might affect real estate investors. Because Carson has no previous track record in this arena or a related one outside of his own life experiences, we have very little to go on. Carson recently noted that if he were to be tapped to be HUD Secretary, he would work to eliminate “corruption, graft and shell games in urban areas.” However, it is unclear how he might go about this.
Given that the position is one in a new administration that most analysts predict will be good for investors and small-business owners, however, it seems relatively safe to say that there is no reason for real estate investors to panic. If Trump and, by extension, Carson, hold to historic behaviors and campaign pledges, even just to a degree, real estate investors are likely to benefit from additional opportunities rather than suffer under new limitations. As with everything in the new administration, however, Carson’s appointment is largely unprecedented and we will have to wait and see.