By Staff –
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is backpedaling after facing backlash for his recent proposal to remove anti-discrimination language from HUD’s mission statement.
Initially, a top HUD official announced to staff the agency would be changing its mission statement to better align with Carson and the Trump administration’s priorities.
The revised statement read as follows:
“HUD’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.”
However, the changed mission statement has reportedly removed language that promised to provide “strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all,” and the fact that these communities should be “free from discrimination,” which prompted an outcry from groups like the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“Secretary Carson is sending a message to the country that he does not take discrimination in the housing market seriously,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told Newsweek on Wednesday.
According to Yentel, even if the language changes do happen, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and the agency still have a legal obligation to fight discrimination.
In response, Carson sent a letter to employees stating that he was considering changing the organization’s mission statement, but said that the agency would not move away from protecting Americans from discrimination.
“The Department’s mission statement has changed from time to time to capture the dynamic nature of our work,” Carson stated. “But the notion that any new mission statement would reflect a lack of commitment to fair housing is nonsense.”
HUD has yet to finalize the change to the agency’s mission statement, and it is unclear yet whether criticism of the revised statement will effect his decision in the future.
Read Carson’s full letter to employees below.
By now, many of you may have read media accounts indicating that we’ve changed HUD’s mission statement and that these changes signal some sort of retreat from our legal and rightful role in protecting Americans from housing discrimination. It’s not enough that I merely assert these news reports are patently false; it’s necessary that I personally address them and reassure you, the HUD family, that nothing could be further from the truth.
First, some background. HUD’s current mission statement reads: “HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business.”
A bit wordy perhaps but I agree with every word. The Department’s mission statement has changed from time to time to capture the dynamic nature of our work. It changed in 2003 and again in 2010. Now, in 2018, we are considering another change to our mission statement and are seeking comments and ideas from our senior staff. But the notion that any new mission statement would reflect a lack of commitment to fair housing is nonsense. Yesterday, we issued a public statement to correct the record.
As in previous Administrations, HUD is considering modest changes to the Department’s mission statement to make it a more clear and concise expression of the historic work this agency performs on behalf of the American people. You can be sure of one thing—any mission statement for this Department will embody the principle of fairness as a central element of everything that we do. HUD has been, is now, and will always be committed to ensuring inclusive housing, free from discrimination for all Americans.
Next month, we will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. In signing that landmark bill into law, President Johnson said, “Fair Housing for all, all human beings who live in this country, is now a part of the American way of life.” I believe that and I know you do too. The ideals of that law, and our continuing work to support them, are really quite simple—fair is fair.
Thank you for all you do to give meaning and substance to our mission.
Secretary Ben Carson