California Democrats call on Carson to keep “free from discrimination” in HUD mission statement

Sens. Harris, Feinstein, others concerned that HUD’s work could be changing

Several prominent California Democrats, including the state’s two Senators, are calling on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to not make the rumored changes to HUD’s mission statement, arguing that removing the phrase “free from discrimination” could lead to a rise in housing discrimination.

Last month, word began to leak out that HUD Secretary Ben Carson was considering changing HUD’s mission statement as part of an effort to “align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.”

HUD’s proposed new mission statement is shorter, cutting the current statement from 63 words to 23 words, and several notable observers expressed concern that removing certain words from the mission statement could telegraph a change to HUD’s mission.

Here’s HUD’s current mission statement: “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.”

The new, proposed mission statement reads 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.”

The National Association of Realtors, the National Urban League, Zillow, and others voiced concern about the new statement’s lack of specifics on fair housing protections.

Carson, on the other hand, immediately pushed back hard against those concerns.

“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,” Carson said in a statement issued after reports of the altered mission statement began. “HUD has been, is now, and will always be committed to ensuring inclusive housing, free from discrimination for all Americans.”

Regardless of Carson’s statement, the absence of the phrase “free from discrimination” in the proposed mission statement is a cause for alarm for Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and several other California Democrats.

In a letter sent to Carson this week, Harris, Feinstein and five members of the California delegation in the House of Representatives, call on Carson and HUD to keep the phrase “free from discrimination” in HUD’s mission statement.

“We are writing to express our deep concern that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is considering changing its mission statement from one that promotes inclusion and discrimination-free communities to one that does not strive to offer the same protections,” the California Democrats write.

“HUD must lead by example and commit to expand its work in eliminating housing discrimination, in which HUD has been a champion,” they continue. “These changes to the HUD mission statement would erase decades worth of progress and bring back an era in which people were denied housing based on the color of their skin.”

The Democrats ask that HUD not make any changes to its mission statement in order to maintain HUD’s current mission of enforcing the Fair Housing Act.

“We additionally ask that you ensure that HUD will continue to build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and help hard working families pursue their American dream of safe, affordable, and inclusive housing,” the Democrats conclude.

In addition to being signed by Harris and Feinstein, the letter is signed by Reps. Jared Huffman, D-Calif.; Jerry McNerney, D-Calif.; Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif.; Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; and Mike Thompson, D-Calif.

The California Democrats ask Carson for a response by April 9.

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