U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson’s appearance in Texas along with President Donald Trump on Tuesday was likely meant to be a symbol of hope for the thousands of Hurricane Harvey’s victims displaced from their homes by the historic floods in and around Houston.
But considering the political inexperience of the one-time Republican presidential candidate, some Twitter users wondered if he would really be able to effect any change for those who actually need it, including about 80 percent of home owning victims without flood insurance.
Those concerns may not be too far-fetched, as even before Harvey left more than a dozen dead from the powerful storm system, Carson seemed to leave a lot to be desired as HUD secretary.
The retired neurosurgeon in the past has expressed some misgivings at being the head of HUD, New York magazine reported. In addition, budget cuts to HUD, a number of key unfilled positions and apparent contempt by existing agency staffers have only exacerbated the situation.
“People feel disrespected,” one anonymous HUD employee told New York magazine. “They see Carson and think, I’ve been in housing policy for 20 or 30 years, and if I walked away, I would never expect to get hired as a nurse.”
A number of news outlets have cited Carson’s apparent inability to address the country’s housing crisis, something that Houston – the fourth-largest city in the U.S. – will likely be grappling with for many months to come.
For his part, Carson tweeted sentiments of apparent self-confidence on Tuesday, one day after he and his federal agency announced a plan for HUD to “speed federal disaster assistance to the State of Texas and provide support to homeowners and low-income renters forced from their homes” because of the storms.
“As FEMA begins to assess the damage and respond to the immediate needs of residents, HUD will be there to offer assistance and support the longer-term housing recovery efforts,” Carson said in part via a press release Monday.
However, while he was planning for Harvey’s aftermath, the urgency in Texas was still growing, including multiple shelters needed to temporarily house the displaced individuals and families affected by the “most extreme rain event in U.S. history.”
But without HUD being fully staffed, questions are bound to linger about Carson’s first major challenge as a member of Trump’s cabinet and how quickly and effectively he and his agency can help Harvey’s victims. Among the positions that were vacant as of Tuesday afternoon were the Federal Housing Administration commissioner and the deputy HUD secretary.