Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Dr. Ben Carson responded to critics of his agency’s new housing aid reform, calling out the left’s failure to recognize the “perverse incentives” of welfare policies that “keep [people] in a very dependent situation,” during an interview on Breitbart News Daily.
“The way the program is set up now, it is unsustainable,” Carson explained to Breitbart News Deputy Political Editor Amanda House. “Each year, we are contributing more and more money to supporting the same number of people. We have stagnation. People are not moving up the ladder and becoming self-sufficient.”
Unveiled last week, the HUD-backed “Making Affordable Housing Work Act” proposes many changes to housing reform, including requiring able-bodied adults who receive housing assistance to pay a larger percentage of their income in rent (35 percent, up from 30), and increasing monthly minimum rent from $50 to $150, among other changes.
This proposal, however, was met with harsh criticism from the left.
First, they freely give $1.5 trillion tax breaks to wealthy people and big corporations. Now, they want to triple millions of poor people's cost of rent.
What more evidence do you need that Republicans ARE NOT working for families struggling to get by? https://t.co/dCC9meo24X
— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) April 27, 2018
I’ve contacted Ben Carson to demand a justification for his proposal of a 300% increase in rent for low-income households. He needs to answer why on earth he thinks this will help low-income families.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) April 27, 2018
In response, Carson told Breitbart News Daily: “A lot of people on the left, they may mean well, but they don’t recognize that some of the policies that we have put in place do not encourage people to move up the ladder, they keep them in a very dependent situation. That’s not compassionate at all if you really stop and think about it.”
The left has said people are going to be thrown out onto the streets and all this garbage. That’s not true at all. We’ve taken that into consideration and we also have hardship exemptions. So to say we’re not thinking about people, that we’re not compassionate, that’s just propaganda.
Self-sufficiency is not a new concept. Its been talked about for a long time. But in the past, once a person starts climbing that ladder of self-sufficiency we tend to yank their support. Well, everybody else is looking at that and they’re saying “I’m not climbing that ladder.” And that’s one of the things that leads to the stagnation. So we have to take all these things into consideration when formulating policies.
We know we’re going to get criticism because people don’t like to change and there also is a poverty industry in our country — they’re not happy about what we’re doing either. But, you know, we have to do what needs to be done because we have to begin to think about the future. And we have to think about our individuals who are not being cultivated.
“Our people are our most important resource. We only have 330 million people. We have to compete with China and India, who have four times that many people, into the future. We need to develop all of our people,” Carson added.
— SiriusXM Patriot (@SiriusXMPatriot) April 30, 2018
Other changes included in HUD’s proposal would be determining an individual’s rent by using his or her gross income, not adjusted income, which is used today. Carson explained:
Right now, we have a lot of people who should have the same income but pay grossly different amounts in rent because they work with the system in different ways. We want something that is consistent and fair for everybody, but we also need something that generates more income for the sustainability of the program.
For Carson, sustainability is key. “You could continue to spend a lot of money and just go off the cliff, or you can say, ‘let’s find a way that we can moderate this so that we don’t go off the cliff.’ [Reform] is a very difficult thing [to do] in today’s environment because everybody wants everything now and [they don’t care about the future],” he told House.
The reform would also change how an individual’s income is accessed. Carson believes assessing income every three years instead of every one year (as it is done today) would encourage individuals to seek better opportunities.
“When it’s done every one year people are not particularly incentivized to make more money because then they have to pay more rent but [if accessed every three years] they have years to make more money and get used to making more money and become much more accustomed to working with the marketplace,” Carson said. “Those are the kinds of things that make a big difference.”
The secretary also added that his department is giving public housing authorities and landlords the ability to impose work requirements, saying: “A lot of times people have not been particularly inclined to go out and seek a job because then their rent goes up or they may become ineligible for their apartment. These are perverse incentives. We really can’t have that and you really can’t blame the people, quite frankly, for wanting to just stay in these situations. We collectively, the government, created the situation, and we have a responsibility to fix it.”
Since taking over the reins at HUD, Carson has been working to move individuals from dependency to independence.
“What we’re talking about here is how do you get people to a point where working becomes the normal thing, something that they actually want to do, and they begin to see the real benefits of that, and they get to a point where they don’t even think they need to have the government supporting them,” Carson said, offering this vignette:
This is where the problem lies: Some months ago, I was at a town hall and a young woman stood up and she was very angry and she said, “It’s taken them all this time to get me a five-bedroom apartment,” … because she had so many children … and then she was angry because some of the furniture was scratched. But then, I looked at the woman and I was thinking, “This is the only life she’s ever known.” Her mother probably lived there; her grandmother [probably] did. She doesn’t know anything different.
We have a responsibility to teach them something different… [so] more importantly they can teach that to their children, so we can break those cycles.
During his inauguration speech, President Donald Trump said, “We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.” Last month, Trump declared April 2018 as National Fair Housing Month.