WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 58-41 on Thursday to confirm Ben Carson to be the 17th secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The famed neurosurgeon and former GOP presidential candidate has little experience with housing issues, but he is slated to conduct a nationwide tour to hear stories and concerns from housing stakeholders, according to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
"This presents a real opportunity for Americans to weigh in on how housing issues affect them in their local communities and make a lasting impact on HUD policies," Crapo said shortly before the Senate started voting on Carson's nomination.
So far, the Trump administration has not tapped personnel for other major posts at HUD, such as head of the Federal Housing Administration. Carson is likely to seek out those with housing experience to serve as his deputy secretary and FHA commissioner.
Industry representatives, including the National Association of Realtors, welcomed Carson's confirmation. "The task at hand is a big one, and we applaud his commitment to the challenges that lie ahead," said William Brown, the Realtor group's president.
“Homeownership helps build communities and build wealth for families," Brown said. "And we know that the policies set in Washington can make a real difference for individual Americans as they work to realize the dream of homeownership for themselves. We look forward to working with Secretary Carson to meet these challenges head on.”
The Mortgage Bankers Association also welcomed Carson's confirmation. "His commitment to bolster America’s real estate markets and assist communities nationwide will serve him well in his new role," said David Stevens, its president and CEO.
"MBA looks forward to working with the Secretary and his team at HUD," Stevens said.
Now that HUD has a new secretary, Crapo said, the banking committee can begin work on several important issues under HUD's jurisdiction such as "homelessness, especially among our nation's veterans."
The panel chairman also wants to streamline regulatory burdens on local public housing agencies and strengthen financing arrangements for small and rural affordable housing developments.
"For years, there has been bipartisan interest in a number of these reforms. I look forward to having a strong partner at HUD so we can tackle these issues and many others head on," Crapo said.
But some Democrats remain opposed to Carson. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, sharply criticized the pick.
“The decision to put Dr. Carson in such a critical role in our Federal government reveals that Trump and Republicans are not serious about addressing the housing challenges faced by hardworking American families," Waters said. "Putting him in charge of a complex federal agency responsible for ensuring access to safe, decent and affordable housing for our nation’s most vulnerable households makes absolutely no sense."