Statement: NASW withholds support of confirmation of Dr. Ben Carson to lead U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) withholds its support of the Senate confirmation of Dr. Ben Carson to be the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) because he has no discernible qualifications to manage an agency of such magnitude and complexity.

It is crucial that HUD have a qualified leader. The agency oversees housing programs, policies and initiatives that are critical for clients who are low or moderate income, especially those who are persons of color.

The emergence of HUD as a cabinet-level agency has historical significance. Its creation was precipitated by civil rights advocacy and activism during the 1960s that brought attention to the deplorable state of some housing in cities and rural areas.

HUD was launched in 1965 after passage of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Act. The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 to combat housing discrimination and the HUD secretary was deemed responsible for implementing and enforcing the directives of this law.

Both legislative actions effectively changed the nation’s approach to housing policy and creating housing opportunities for low and moderate income families and individuals.

For the last half century incoming Republican and Democratic presidents sought to appoint individuals that had either been elected officials who had direct experience with large-scale housing initiatives or those who were experts in housing policies and planning.

Indeed, the first HUD Secretary was Robert C. Weaver, an African American who had extensive academic and administrative experience in dealing with the nation’s housing problems. President John F. Kennedy in 1960 appointed Mr. Weaver to head the federal Housing and Home Finance Agency. President Lyndon B. Johnson named him head of newly created HUD in 1966.

Given the qualifications of many of his predecessors NASW finds it risky to appoint someone such as Dr. Carson who is so lacking in the credentials and commitment to head the department and uphold HUD’s housing mandate.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition perhaps said it best when it stated, “With so many qualified candidates to choose from with deep knowledge of, and commitment to, affordable housing solutions for the poorest families, and with the housing crisis reaching new heights across the country, Dr. Ben Carson’s nomination to serve as HUD secretary is surprising and concerning, given his lack of experience with or knowledge of the programs he would oversee.”*

NASW finds Dr. Carson’s experience wanting and his stated positions on issues of fair housing and subsidized housing raise serious concerns.

The reality is that over the years HUD’s capacity to address the nation’s housing needs have been limited by politicians, which makes the appointment of Dr. Carson so significant.

By all reports, Dr. Carson has made public statements about low-income housing that suggest he is far less a champion of maintaining the fair housing standards and the housing safety-net than NASW would hope.

For example, in a 2015 written statement about disparate impact that was related to subsidized housing in wealthy areas and suburban segregation, Dr. Carson disparaged the current HUD Secretary Julian Castro’s fair housing position as being “a government engineered attempt to legislate racial equality.” Such a point of view is contrary to what NASW and others expect from HUD’s leadership.

We must not lose sight of the fact that HUD is responsible for funding and overseeing seminal and innovative programs including the Continuum of Care program that provides for comprehensive services to prevent and end homelessness.

HUD also provides funds to states for the Section 8 Housing Choice voucher program. Section 8 is HUD’s largest rental assistance program that serves people who are low income. Local Housing Authorities are responsible for administering Section 8 housing voucher allocations.  Approximately 3.3 million low-income families use either Housing Choice vouchers or Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance.

NASW finds Dr. Carson’s experience wanting and his stated positions on issues of fair housing and subsidized housing raise serious concerns.

However, should Dr. Carson become the next Secretary of HUD we believe he has a responsibility to become knowledgeable about the absolute necessity to maintain and even expand essential HUD programs such as homeless Continuum of Care, Section 8 Housing Choice and the many other housing programs targeted at rural, suburban and urban areas.

He must also recognize the historical importance of HUD’s mandate to ensure that low and moderate income Americans have access to safe affordable housing that meets high standards of livability.

For more information contact Mel Wilson, NASW manager of Social Justice and Human Rights, at

*Editor’s note: A previous quote was incorrectly attributed to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. We regret our error.



  1. Sadly, I am not surprised that the NASW has signed on to all the liberal rhetoric taking place since this past election. To say that Ben Carson is not qualified to lead the Department of Housing is absurd. Not only is he an intelligent man with a medical degree, he is a renowned brain surgeon! But that’s not all… he also happens to be a man who grew up in poverty, and he gets it. He is a wise and humble man!

    The NASW has taken it upon itself to operate as an ‘exclusionary’ organization and the level of intolerance being demonstrated by liberals and many in our profession is embarrassing to say the least. The organization is more concerned with protesting against and disrespecting our “elected” President, who by the way had not even had an opportunity to prove himself considering he hadn’t officially taken office yet. Even worse, no one (aside from the self-righteous left) has any idea what you were protesting for? To add insult to the representation of our profession, we learn that the LEAD organizer is a Muslim-American women who has publicly voiced her favor of “Sharia Law,” yet another female organizer who was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the heinous torture and murder of a man. But that’s not all, celebrities airing thoughts to blow up the White House and murder the President and his family, others spouting off profanities about nasty women and the disparity of pay between men and women in the workforce. I’m still not understanding what that had to do with Donald Trump and no mention of a President that just spent eight years in office … was that not his job. Total Hypocrisy!

  2. I am not renewing my NASW membership after many years. I believe Ben Carson is an amazing, intelligent and experienced African American and should be respected as such. It is disturbing to me that the NASW would not stand in support of this man. You have fallen victim to two party rhetoric and are not interested in really embracing diversity, opportunity and advancement for marginalized populations. I am disgusted with NASW and their political agenda.


    It’s time for NASW to change its withdrawal of support to supporting Dr. Carson for HUD Secretary.

  4. This article is against empowerment and critical thinking. It is pro continuation of failing policies. Funny how many CSWE appoved schools praised Dr. Carson in the past, but because he has a R in front of his name he is now unqualified? The NASW may want to consider a self-evaluation and consider staying out of politics.

  5. I support Dr. Ben Carson in his new role. NASW ignores the conservative social workers and is an arm of the Democrat Party.

  6. For those that say Dr. Carson lacks the experience to know what is needed, I remind you that he grew up in such housing. That is more than enough experience! Much better than someone that has never struggled with the environment he grew up in! Go live in one of these housing areas for four years and then you’ll be qualified to make a judgement about his qualifications. The NASW is beginning to be out of touch with real issues and looking to make political commentary it’s goal.

  7. It is not his party affiliation. He is unqualified for the job.

    • Just because he hasn’t been employed in the public housing sector does not mean he lacks experience with working with public housing customers. Dr. Carson has extensive experience in healthcare which requires a social systems view of that business. He brings a fresh perspective to HUD, one that in desperately needed to change this agency into one that provides effective and efficient services that will help people not need that service in the future, instead of the current system that perpetuates dependence upon the system.

  8. Thank you for the article – we as SW must keep ourselves well informed at such a crucial time .

  9. Jay E. Korman, LCSW

    Those of you who are supporting Dr. Carson seem to be ignoring the fact that he himself said that he’s not qualified for any cabinet-level post. Are you presuming that he was just being modest?

    I seriously hope that he can rise to the occasion and be the leader that HUD needs but have seen no evidence of it as of yet.

    As for his experience being first-hand, I took a subway today. Does that make me qualified to be the Chairman of the MTA? Carson has no experience running a large governmental agency with a multi-million (multi-billion?) dollar budget and a bunch of different programs under its umbrella.

    Please don’t come back with something about “liberal bias” or any other such dismissive statement. I’m all for whoever can get the job done. Dr. Carson has done little to nothing to inspire any confidence that he’s that person.

  10. What a shock that the NASW is not supporting Dr. Carson. Has the NASW ever supported a republican in any role? Wanting to help people out of public housing is not an agenda item of the NASW.

    • Firewolf Jeffries

      Thank u for saying this. I just walked out of our NASW heartland conference after growing weary of the disparaging remarks about trump and cheers from the crowd. Really? No democratic presidential nominee has won a single county in Oklahoma since Gore took 9 counties some 16 years ago. I serve a geriatric community and they are all conservatives. Nasw and Democrats alike are all about inclusivety and equality as long as you are like minded. Read the code, people. I’m going back to the conference tomorrow proudly wearing my Trump shirt. I know what will happen. I’ll get a few ugly gawks and disparaging remarks but I bet I will get a ton of winks and nods by LCSWs who agree with me but don’t want to be outed as actual conservatives!

  11. I have been a member of NASW for over 10 years but now getting to the point of separation because the social justice focus is only on the Liberal political party. Wake up NASW, there are professional social worker conservatives out here that feel you are totally off base when discussing social services. Our GOP and new president elect, Donald Trump, does care about the vulnerable population and helping those in need. Dr. Carson and all his nominees will do an excellent job and make America great again but in a different way!

    • Thanks Phyllis for your comments. I am a practicing clinician (MSW,LICSW ) and a member of NASW for 10 years too and couldn’t agree with you more. Thanks for your voice.

  12. Support for Dr.Carson is your civic responsibility but withholding it does not matter one bit!!! like it or not, he will be in the Trump administration and HUD can expect great changes to happen!

  13. Kathryn fitzner LCSW

    Dr. Carson is a wonderful candidate and would be an asset to any administration. His experience is first hand and he is an example to many. Shame on NASW for not doing their homework .

  14. Have you met Dr. Carson? Have you read his book or have seen the movie about his life, starring Cuba Gooding Jr.? Dr. Carson knows poverty and housing challenges from his own personal history. He watched his mother work three jobs to support him and his siblings. He knows what it takes to succeed against great odds.

    As a pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Carson is well acquainted with social systems and bureaucracies. He will bring a fresh eye to a system that may benefit from his leadership. His statements during the Senate confirmation hearing were repeatedly focused on fair housing and outcomes that are best for the people he will serve.

  15. Thanks for a great article. Sadly it sounds like this nominee, many of the other nominees, the President Elect and his advisers and many members of Congress have either not heard of or don’t the believe the concepts of institutional racism and white privilege. Additional their views are condemning or profiling the very people they think can make it on their own but concluding that if you need assistance, government or otherwise, it’s because you’re unwilling to work and realize the many opportunities that American society provides all its citizens and residents.

    • The usual leftist trash. Sad to see you elected a senator with no prior experience beyond four years. Yet leftist think they have the best interests of the country in hand. What if he was a black democrat would it be different.

    • The problem with Dr Carson is that his qualifications do not match the position for which he has been nominated. Even if he were a Democrat he would still be unqualified for this particular position.

    • How is an MD with experience with multiple organizations/bureaucracies and personal experience with overcoming abject poverty not qualified for the head of HHS?

      The American voters elected a President (balanced voting via the Electoral College, not the mob vote in party-heavy select areas of the country) who will lean up our government to be of better service to the people. Dr. Carson has testified before the Senate his intention to have HHS effectively and efficiently serve the people.

      His mission is to help people out of needing HHS’s services, versus the current system of fostering dependence on these services. I would do the same in his position. Government agencies (and most private corporations) have processes fraught with waste. It’s time for government to evaluate HOW services are delivered and develop improved ways to deliver.

      I’ve said it before and will say it again: If we really care about the people we serve, we need to MEASURE OUTCOMES and DEVELOP IMPROVED PROCESSES. As a taxpayer, I hope the government (and our profession) will do a better job instead of churning out the same outcomes via the same processes and expecting better results (see Einstein’s Definition of Insanity).

    • Carson is nominated to head HUD not HHS. He has absolutely no experience in the area of housing.

    • Great re ply it must hurt liberal socialist to heR the truth!!!

    • We liberals, progressive and most Black folks know a Coon when we see one. Carson like Thomas are so bruised by their experience in being colored in this country that will/have used every effort to wipe away any vestige of their past or evidence that Black people’s existence in this country. Remember what happen to the original, first people of this land.

    • Many progressives and most BlackFolks know a self hater when we see one. Carson like Thomas are so bruised by their experience in being colored in this country that they will/have used every effort to wipe away any vestige of their past or evidence that Black people every existed in this country. Remember what happen to the original first people of this land.

    • Carson like Thomas are so bruised by their experience in being Black in this country that they will/have used every effort to wipe away any vestige of their past or connection to the real needs of all Americans.

  16. This country is now a for profit private sector corp.

  17. At what point will the NASW makr it a national campaign to educate the country on our roles in society and punlish such a letter as this to make advocacy the forefront of our profession and education campaign?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.