Amidst a flurry of nominations to secretary posts in recent weeks, President-Elect Donald Trump submitted Dr. Ben Carson’s name to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the new administration. A loyal surrogate and confidant to Trump after withdrawing from the Presidential primary race earlier this year, it was widely speculated he would be offered the top job at the Department of Health and Human Services or another role more in keeping with his professional experience as a physician. However, the emphasis Trump placed on restoring American urban centers during the campaign, especially in places like Michigan, Illinois and Ohio, pairs well with Carson’s upbringing in inner city Detroit. The growing consensus within policymaker and academic circles about the nexus between housing and health also presents an opportunity for Dr. Carson. He will be subject to the same Senate confirmation hearing procedure as other cabinet level secretaries, expected to take place early in the new year.
Overseeing a vast bureaucracy operating numerous programs and functions requires a talented advisory team, which Carson will look to assemble in the coming weeks or months. The top positions to fill include Chief of Staff, a number of Assistant Secretary Positions, and perhaps most important, Deputy Secretary. For the Deputy Secretary role, which has often functioned as a COO in past administrations, three names are circulating. Pam Patenaude and Rick Lazio were both previously under consideration for the top job at HUD, and are widely respected within the industry. The third is Brian Montgomery, who briefly ran HUD during the Bush/Obama transition after a tour of duty running FHA, one of the most important functions within the Department. How quickly Carson populates his senior team and the members he selects will send a strong message to the real estate community about his priorities as Secretary, and how he intends to tackle the challenges facing his department and America’s housing market.