While touring a housing development complex in Little Rock, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said the proposed budget for the department in the year 2020, which faces an 18 percent cut, is likely not to change.
Carson was in Little Rock on Friday for the Arkansas Fair Housing/Fair Lending conference that occured this week and was the keynote speaker. Before his address, Carson visited Cumberland Towers, a HUD-supported housing complex that is undergoing renovations through a private-public partnership. When asked about Arkansas’s lack of statewide habitability standards for rented residential properties, Carson said while all HUD properties do have set standards, he believes the standards for rented residental properties should be raised.
"I would hope that we will continuously raise the standard for the non-HUD properties because everybody deserves a safe, secure and affordable place where they can live in dignity," Carson said. When speaking on the department’s budget, he said the solution to resolving problems is not always more money.
"We looked at the affordability issues and we said, 'What is the solution?' Is the solution just to throw more money at it, or is the solution to get at the reason that these prices are so high and to deal with that. And I think the latter is the way we need to go," Carson said.
Cumberland Towers is located in an "opportunity zone." According to a news release from the HUD, opportunity zones are areas that offer capital gains tax relief to those who invest in these areas. Overall there are 85 designated zones in the state, with eight of them located in Pulaski County.
The building is being remodeled one floor at a time due to the Department’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which works with public-private partnerships as opposed to just government funds to restore housing. Carson said in these situations, each member of the partnership benefits from the other.
"It’s a good way to do it. Bring the private sector money, bring the confidence from the government, bring the initial seeding from the government, and I think it’s going to be possible to really get rid of all the public housing units and create these kinds of situations for people," Carson said.