Ben Carson hasn’t been the most popular of figures in the black community or with those struggling in poverty ever since rising to the rank of secretary of housing and urban development.
Several months ago, Carson claimed that poverty is a “state of mind.”
Now, The Intercept reports that Carson seems to be doubling down on that thinking. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that it’ll be delaying implementation of the Small Area Fair Market Rent rule for another two years.
The rule was set to go into effect on January 1, 2018, but HUD believes further study is necessary. However, critics of the delay point out that the rule has been under study since 2012.
The rule changed how federal housing choice vouchers — also known as Section 8 — could be used. Right now, all 5 million people who benefit from the program are given rent subsidies based on city-wide housing formulas. This has had the effect of limiting where the vouchers are any good to low-income neighborhoods that often have poor public schools and high crime rates.
Families want to move to better neighborhoods with more resources, and the Small Area Fair Market Rent rule would have allowed them to do so, by calculating rent subsidies based on zip codes. This would give families receiving Section 8 benefits more money per month if they would like to move to more expensive neighborhoods.
A pilot program examining the new rule took place in Dallas; it was found that the moves didn’t cost the government much more, but that it improved the quality of life and socioeconomic and educational opportunities for those families that moved to better neighborhoods.
In order to try to get the rule back on the books, a group of civil rights organizations are suing Carson and HUD, claiming that this decision is furthering racial and economic segregation. According to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, HUD must reduce segregation within federal housing programs.
The organizations suing HUD include the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Citizen and Relman, Dane and Colfax.
“The delay of this rule will have a segregative effect, denying these primarily African American families who would want to move out of their neighborhoods the chance to do so,” said Ajmel Quereshi, a senior counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
“This case is about more than just housing,” Quereshi continued, “Of course, they hope to live in a higher-quality residences, but it’s really about people who want to move to better and safer neighborhoods, but they can’t because of the value of their voucher. It’s about schools and transportation and doctor visits and grocery stores that people want to be able to access to support their families.”
HUD has not directly commented on the lawsuit, but spokesperson Brian Sullivan said that the delay does not mean the policy will change in any way. Instead, he claimed that delaying the launch will result in a more successful rule implementation.