Ben Carson Denies Claims That New HUD Mission Statement Doesn't Support Fair Housing

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is pushing back against "patently false" reports that his agency is moving toward unfair housing policies after considering the removal of anti-discrimination language from its mission statement.

"The notion that any new mission statement would reflect a lack of commitment to fair housing is nonsense," Carson said in email to HUD staff members on Thursday, which was made public by The Huffington Post.

An internal memo circulated to staff on March 5 revealed the proposed changes in the agency's mission statement. The new statement 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."

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."

Carson acknowledged that the agency has changed its mission over the years to "capture the dynamic nature of our work," citing 2003 and 2010 as examples. While the mission statement is "a bit wordy," Carson reiterated his commitment to agreeing "with every word" of the mission statement in the email sent to staffers.

HUD's current mission statement reads:

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.

After the memo was made public, HUD faced criticism by the NAACP and housing advocates, who disagreed about what the change in language means.

"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," Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told Newsweek on Wednesday as the news broke.

At that time, HUD said it was "considering modest changes" so the mission statement reflected "a more clear and concise expression."

Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act—a landmark civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin on housing-related tranactions.

Taking the lead from other agencies that have changed mission statement language, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services most recently removed the phrase "nation of immigrants" from its mission statement.