March 22, 2018

Cortez Masto Questions HUD Secretary Carson on Affordable Housing Crisis, LGBTQ Housing Discrimination

Washington, D.C. – At today’s Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) questioned Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson on his plan to address the nation’s affordable housing crisis and followed up on his lack of response to a letter she sent last summer about HUD’s withdrawal of its LGBTQ guidance for shelters from their website.

Cortez Masto highlighted the nation’s affordable housing crisis, adding that Nevada has the severe housing shortage in the nation: “High rents are driving thousands into homelessness. Our waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 are in the tens of thousands, with families waiting years for help. Yet this is the second year in a row that this administration plans to eviscerate the already inadequate funding that we provide for affordable housing. Thank goodness Congress is the one that provides the funding and saw the need to ensure that we’re shoring up those resources for affordable housing. But what I’d like to know now that you have those resources: what is your plan to help us address the affordable housing crisis in this country?” 

In response, Secretary Carson said he thinks the “push to enhance Section 3” and “increas[ing] the number of units that are dealt with through the RAD program” are effective, while “public-private partnerships” will be “enhanced through the Opportunity Zone.” He also made a commitment to Cortez Masto’s request to work with Congress to address the affordable rental housing crisis. 

Cortez Masto also brought attention to HUD’s lack of response to a July 2017 letter sent by her and 28 of her colleagues requesting that they reinstate guidance that protects LGBTQ people from housing discrimination on their website: “Is it normal for your agency to take nearly nine months to respond to 28 U.S. senators?”

Secretary Carson claimed that this is a “complex legal issue” and blamed the delay on the vacancy in HUD’s general counsel position until December 2017. Cortez Masto retorted that this “legal issue” was already determined by the legal counsel of the prior administration. Carson responded that the issue must take into account the “rights of all the constituents” and “not just from one point of view.” 

Cortez Masto said, “Are you saying you still need legal counsel before you can make a determination that you want to prohibit discrimination?”

Carson said it’s an issue HUD is concerned about, but that “it has to be done the right way,” but refused to explain more about why the previous guidance regarding providing emergency shelter to transgender individuals needed revision.