Hundreds lined up to see federal Housing Secretary Ben Carson in Stamford, Connecticut, Monday night. Carson was speaking at the Ferguson Library as part of its lecture series, “Civility in America.”
The event sold out more than 300 seats last month, so Juliet Scott stood in a queue to get in off the waitlist. Scott had an important question to ask the secretary for Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.
“Why he wants to triple the rent of HUD participants? That’s very important to me because if you're gonna do that, do you also have a program to where the participants are able to go ahead and get a job to meet the criteria of you tripling this subsidy that makes no sense whatsoever?”
Earlier this year, Carson proposed tripling the share of rent people who receive federal housing assistance must pay. He also wants to impose work requirements. Congress would have to approve the change. Carson told the crowd that the headlines make civil discussion about his proposal difficult.
“We are, to quote, declaring ‘war on the poor’ by our policies and initiatives. What a bunch of crap. We are totally committed to fair housing.”
Carson says in the next week, he plans to launch three employment centers for HUD recipients in and around his hometown of Detroit. Carson wants it to be a pilot program and a model for the rest of the nation. The work requirements for housing may still be controversial, but Ferguson Library President Alice Knapp said that’s why Carson was invited to speak.
“It’s very important that the library provides people with access to all views.”
Knapp says the Civility Series helps bring people together. And it may have worked. Juliet Scott was skeptical of Carson’s policies before the talk, but she said she changed her mind when she heard that Carson wants to open employment centers.
“That is a plus. I had no idea that he was trying to do that because you always hear the negative. So it’s definitely changed my mind about him. I’m glad I came and saw him and heard him talk straight from the horse’s mouth.”
Carson did not comment on a lawsuit his department is facing. Fair housing advocates are suing HUD for suspending an Obama-era policy that required communities to study neighborhood segregation and draft plans to reverse it.