Ben Carson's Housing Department Removes Commitment to Discrimination-Free Communities From Mission Statement

Updated | Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is reportedly changing his agency’s mission statement, removing anti-discrimination language and promises to Americans of “inclusive communities.”

According to an internal March 5 memo to staff, Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, said the change was “an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration,” which was first reported by HuffPost.

The memo revealed that the new mission would read:

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. 

Previously, the mission statement, which is still displayed on its website, read:

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.

While Thompson wrote that an organization's mission is never "static," its 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," Thompson wrote.

HuffPost reported that it is not clear if the new language is set in stone.

"As in previous Administrations, HUD is considering modest changes to the Department’s mission statement to make it a more clear and concise expression of the historic work this agency performs on behalf of the American people," Raffi Williams, HUD's communications director, said in a statement to Newsweek.

"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," Williams said. "HUD has been, is now, and will always be committed to ensuring inclusive housing, free from discrimination for all Americans."

However, housing advocates have disagreed about what the change in language means. “By removing the anti-discrimination language from HUD’s mission statement, Secretary Carson is sending a message to the country that he does not take discrimination in the housing market seriously," said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a statement to Newsweek.

"This latest in a series of moves by Secretary Carson to de-emphasize HUD’s role in creating inclusive communities is unfortunate—thankfully, the law trumps a mission statement, so those legal obligations remain," she added.

HUD is not the first agency that has changed its direction since the Trump administration. Last month, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency charged with processing immigration applications to the United States, removed the phrase “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement. 

HUD has been hit with a recent string of criticism, as reports show the housing department's morale is at an "all-time low." 

Last week, the agency came under fire after news broke it used $31,000 in taxpayer money for a dining set. A congressional oversight committee is asking Carson for documents on why the purchase was made. Federal law regulates taxpayer money, and any expenses amounting to more than $5,000 for redecorating an agency head's office has to be reported to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

This story has been updated to include statements from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and HUD.