Miami-Dade County

HUD chief Ben Carson visits future Habitat for Humanity site in Pompano Beach

HUD Secretary Ben Carson speaks at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church for the Pompano Beach Habitat for Humanity celebration.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson speaks at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church for the Pompano Beach Habitat for Humanity celebration. Sun Sentinel

President Donald Trump’s housing chief, Ben Carson, visited the future site of a Habitat for Humanity site in Broward County on Friday — as the administration is proposing to slashing billions for affordable housing.

Housing experts say the cuts, should they occur, will hurt South Florida, one of the most unaffordable metro areas in the nation.

Speaking at the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, Carson praised the Habitat development that will include 77 homes.

“This project right here is one of the things that works because of public-private partnerships and how incredible they are at leveraging dollars,” he told the audience of local government officials and housing activists. “That’s how we become a success as a nation. The government can’t do everything, but the government can do things to get things started and then the private sector and faith community comes in and leverages that.”

Carson was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Carson’s visit comes as Trump has proposed slashing about $6 billion from HUD, a cut of about 13 percent. That includes eliminating funding for programs that help people buy or rent homes. Among them: Community Development Block Grant and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

When asked by reporters if he supports such cuts, Carson said that some money for housing would be included in a separate infrastructure budget but offered no details.

“What I support is making sure that we take care of our vulnerable citizens — the name of the program under which we do that is not as important as the concept of getting that done,” he said.

Local and national housing officials have said the cuts would exacerbate an affordable housing crisis.

“Elimination of the CDBG and HOME programs would be devastating to the moderate and low income families in the county,” said Broward County’s housing director, Ralph Stone, in an interview.

Jonathan T.M. Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, told the Miami Herald that he will meet with Carson soon to discuss the budget.

“Eliminating or reducing funding for these housing programs would exacerbate local housing shortages and increase the burden of housing costs on families in need of housing stability,” said Habitat in a written statement.

Carson, who grew up in a single-parent impoverished household in Detroit, has espoused a conservative view of what he views as a culture of dependency.

“What has happened too often is that people who seemingly mean well have promoted things that do not encourage development of any innate talent in people,” Carson said at a hearing in January. “Hence we have generation after generation living in dependent situations. It’s not that they’re bad people, it’s that this is what they’ve been given, and it’s all they know in some cases.”

Habitat expects to break ground at 900 NW 15th St. later this year, and the $16 million development will take about five years to complete. The neighborhood will be named in honor of Rick Case, an automotive dealer who gave $500,000 for the project and was instrumental in bringing Carson to embrace the project.

The state earmarks the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund for housing, but Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature have routinely raided the fund to pay for other programs. After the event with Carson, Scott was asked why the state continues to raid the trust fund.

“I think it's very important to be investing in affordable housing every year and we do that in my budget,” he said. “I am very hopeful that is what will happen as the budget comes out of the House and Senate.”