In an interview with the conservative outlet Newsmax TV on Monday, Ben Carson announced that he will “likely” leave his role as secretary of Housing and Urban Development after Trump’s first term. “I will certainly finish out this term,” Carson said in the interview. “I would be interested in returning to the private sector because I think you have just as much influence, maybe more, there.” It appears that leading the agency responsible for the 2 million residents living in public housing, and another 4.7 million living in Section 8, isn’t enough influence for the pediatric neurosurgeon and 2016 presidential candidate.
Carson’s appointment was widely questioned in 2017, as he had no experience in any form of housing policy. Some, including Curbed’s Alissa Walker, concluded that Trump — who was once sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent to black tenants — had picked Carson “on a single misconception: that urban America equals Black America. That seems to be why he picked a black man to oversee his ‘plan’ for African Americans.”
Though Carson came into HUD with no experience to show, he proved to be one of this administration’s more capable secretaries; under the Trumpian definition, one is capable if they scale back their department’s mission without getting mired in too many ethical scandals. Unlike other cabinet secretaries who were brought down by their conflicts of interest and questionable spending, Carson managed to avoid such a fate, though he was criticized for purchasing a $31,000 dining set with taxpayer money (the order was eventually cancelled). Other near-scandals include: when he had his son schedule a HUD “listening tour” in Baltimore with businessmen that Ben Carson Jr. had dealings with, and a report that claimed a third of Carson’s top appointees did not have housing policy experience.
Under Carson, HUD has seen a serious decline in the enforcement of Obama-era anti-discrimination housing regulations. In April 2018, the agency also attempted to triple the rent of tenants receiving federal housing assistance. In January, Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, considered the department’s most competent executive, resigned in frustration over HUD’s housing policy under Trump, and the president’s attempt to cut disaster-recovery funding for Puerto Rico.
Carson’s announcement comes with the assumption of a second Trump term, which is well within the realm of possibility, according to a new poll from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, which finds four out of ten voters prepared to reelect the president. That number is significantly lower than normal for an incumbent, but high enough for a White House already plagued by turnover to worry about the possibility of a second-term staff exodus.