Dr. Carson’s appointment to be the leader of HUD was universally derided by many within the public housing sector. His lack of experience in the housing sector was often cited as the reason. While Dr. Carson might not have experience in the housing arena, he has the opportunity to make a major mark on both the department and the various offices within his area. Below are 5 ways in which he could make major changes within the affordable housing industry. ***Warning- I agree that the housing industry needs more funding but I am not going to focus on those areas. NAHRO, CLPHA, PHADA and other industry advocates already are doing this work. These are other ideas that take into account the political climate we are in today. ***
- Implement Time Limits in Public Housing and Voucher Programs: Although I am not necessarily a fan of this idea, I am warming to it. There is simply not enough subsidy to go around and it does not look like the situation is going to improve. Dr. Carson could work with congress, HUD and the public housing world to open up the option of time limits. This would bring about a measure of equity within the housing world and please many within conservative circles. I believe there would be an outcry by many in the affordable housing lobby but at this point time limits might be one of the only ways to make a very finite resource available in a semi-equatable manner. One option might be to open up the possibility for public housing agencies and let each one individually decide if they wish to implement it.
- Expand the Moving to Work Program (MTW): The MTW program has allowed dozens of housing authorities across the USA to solve local problems with local solutions. To be honest it has also allowed these agencies to weather funding cuts better than non-MTW agencies. I argue we should open it up to every agency in the country. Maybe offering fungability of funds to start and then give some basic flexibility around annual reviews, inspections and verification to every PHA. Expanding the program would allow many PHAs to try new innovative ideas and push the boundaries of what is possible within affordable housing.
- Push for Regionalization: There are too many PHAs for HUD to properly keep oversight over. Dr. Carson should push congress and HUD to force housing authorities into a regional model. This might take decades to fully accomplish but Dr. Carson could be the HUD Secretary that gets the ball rolling. This could allow for streamlining of software programs, staffing and force better integration of the private market into maintenance and repair operations.
- Push HUD to Develop Online Portal for Residents and Give to PHAs at No Cost: The paperwork is ridiculous. The amount of time it takes to do annual reviews and finish paperwork is ridiculous. HUD knows what it wants in our client files when they audit. They should develop an online portal that any resident can go into and finish all HUD related paperwork electronically. This should be an open ended system so every PHA could then connect their document imaging and or housing management systems into for data dumps.
- Implement Lean in Public Housing: There is a lot of waste in both the way affordable housing agencies work and the way HUD requires them to work. Lean is a process improvement and management system that is customer focused and efficiency driven. Dr. Carson should implement a lean management system at HUD so that the bureaucrats start focusing on the end user (residents) instead of procedure, forms and never-ending bureaucracy. He should then force lean methodology to be pushed down to the local PHA level. This would help housing authorities focus on the residents (which most are already very good at) and look for ways to be more efficient in their work. A lot of waste at housing authorities comes because of the non-value added work forced on them from HUD.
Conclusion: Dr Carson has 3 1/2 years of time left to make his mark. Like every HUD Secretary before him, he is going to be challenged by congress, advocates and the bureaucracy in place. He can hold the status quo and do nothing or tow the line and just say that cuts in public housing are ok. If he wants to get bold, he will need to think outside the box and push for real change.