WASHINGTON ― Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is changing the mission statement of his agency, removing promises of inclusive and discrimination-free communities.
In a March 5 memo addressed to HUD political staff, Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, explained that the statement is being updated “in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.”
The new mission statement reads:
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.
“An organization’s mission is never static,” Thompson wrote in the memo, which was shared with HuffPost by a HUD employee. “A mission statement describes an organization’s purpose, what it intends to do, and whom it intends to serve. Most importantly, an organization’s activities must be embodied in its mission.”
She said the mission statement had been developed with input from both Carson and his deputy. It’s not clear whether the new language is final. Thompson asked the political staff to send along any “comments or suggestions.”
The Carson mission statement is quite different from the current one, which is still up on HUD’s website. That one promises “strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.” It also says these communities will be “free from discrimination”:
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.
HUD spokesman Raffi Williams said officials were considering “modest changes” to the mission statement, as has been done in previous administrations, to “make it a more clear and concise expression of the historic work this agency performs on behalf of the American people.”
“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. HUD has been, is now, and will always be committed to ensuring inclusive housing, free from discrimination for all Americans,” Williams added.
HUD is not the only federal agency changing its mission under President Donald Trump. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director recently informed employees that it was removing the phrase “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” from its mission statement.
Are you at a federal agency that is changing its mission statement as well? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Under President Barack Obama, HUD made advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights a priority. Shaun Donovan, who served as Obama’s first HUD secretary, was the first sitting Cabinet official in history to publicly support marriage equality.
The agency worked to prohibit discrimination by HUD-funded housing authorities, recognized state and local laws that are more LGBTQ-friendly than federal ones and raised awareness of resources available to the LGBTQ community.
Carson has a long history of making comments opposing equal rights for the LGBTQ community. New York Magazine recently reported that under Carson, HUD has pulled projects meant to help the LGBTQ community, which included online training materials for homeless shelters to ensure equal access for transgender people.
“Self-sufficiency” has been a major focus of Carson’s. Last year, he said he didn’t want low-income Americans receiving federal assistance to feel too “comfortable” in their housing because it might make them say, “I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.”
In December, he announced a new initiative that would put “EnVision Centers” near federal housing developments to help train people in character and leadership, educational advancement, economic empowerment, and health and wellness.
This story has been updated with comment from HUD.