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Ben Carson visit to SF housing development prompts protest

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The secretary of Housing and Urban Development also refused to meet with Mayor Breed

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin And HUD Secretary Carson Testify Before The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee
HUD Secretary Ben Carson visited SF public housing on Tuesday.
Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, arrived in San Francisco to tour a new Potrero Terrace housing development in order to learn more about the city’s homelessness crisis.

More than a dozen protesters, carrying signs saying “house keys not handcuffs,” greeted Carson’s arrival at the 72-unit HOPE SF building.

The tour of the development was Carson’s only activity in the city. He turned down an invitation to meet with Mayor London Breed, who, in an effort to combat to city’s homelessness crisis, has asked for more financial assistance from the federal government.

“The city should be able to sit down with the state and sit down with the federal government as opposed to saying, ‘This is what we need, this is what we need, and if you don’t give it to us, you’re bad people,’” he said during a brief press conference following his tour, according to KTVU.

Carson also told reporters, per the San Francisco Examiner, “One of the things nobody wants to talk about is NIMBYism”—noting that it’s too easy for individual parties to hold up development of new homes. (NIMBYism is a subject that, in fact, comes up frequently in San Francisco and throughout California.)

Following Caron’s one-hour visit to San Francisco, Breed released a statement that, in part, read, “When I learned Secretary Ben Carson was coming to San Francisco, I invited him to meet to discuss the decades of federal funding cuts to public housing [...] I would also like to discuss some of the horrific proposed rule changes that target our immigrant communities living in public housing.”

Carson’s visit coincides with President Donald Trump visit to the Bay Area for a fundraiser at Sun Microsystems cofounder Scott McNealy’s 20-room, four-story home in Portola Valley, as well as the release of a report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors titled The State of Homelessness In America, which lays out a series of policy suggestions for increasing housing production.

Among the report’s eyebrow-raising conclusions: Homeless shelters cause homelessness (“Expanding the supply of homeless shelters shifts the demand for homes inward and increases homelessness”), regulations like rent control and tax policies have hindered an increase in housing stock, and that if San Francisco’s housing market were deregulated, homelessness would fall by 54 percent.