By Omar Narvaez
Narvaez is a Trustee of Dallas County Schools and a candidate for Dallas City Council – District 6
President Trump’s new Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, Ben Carson, was in town last week as part of a national “listening tour.” You could be forgiven for not knowing this, since he and his staff have avoided widely advertising the trip.
This may have something to do with the fact that Secretary Carson would rather not have to answer to the public and defend the outrageous budget cuts he and Donald Trump are trying to ram through Congress.
Secretary Carson may be ducking a lot of public events, for example, so that he doesn’t have to look over 13,000 residents in the eye. That’s how many Texas families stand to lose vouchers that help provide stable homes and a chance to climb that ladder of opportunity. Like with most cruel and mindless policies emanating from the Trump administration, this would disproportionately impact those who can least afford it, and cost all of us much more in the long-run.
Another way we’ll be left paying for the Trump-Carson budget cuts will be through increased healthcare costs. Why? It’s been widely reported that Trump and Carson would seek to starve our local housing authorities of the resources they need to keep homes safe and clean, for instance by remediating mold that can give kids asthma. The Retired-Physician-Turned-Housing-Secretary shockingly signed off on these cuts, even after he testified before the U.S. Senate about the costs of preventable hospitalizations for asthma (which was $1.4 billion in one year alone).
The recent Trump-Carson budget proposal would also cut over $350 million from Texas, a large portion of which directly benefits the DFW region. Our HUD Community Development Block Grant dollars, for instance, are used to attract private investment and spur redevelopment across our neighborhoods. Given the multiplier effect of such early money, removing it from the equation not only means losing those crucial dollars, but also tens of millions of dollars in private capital that transform communities and provide more affordable housing.
We also know that having a decent place to call home is crucial for school readiness – something that we’ve worked to improve in our Dallas County Schools. Yet because of the Trump-Carson attacks on housing opportunities, we will most certainly have fewer students showing up ready to succeed in the classroom. That means in 10 or 20 years, the people who are successfully competing for jobs in our dynamic and fast-growing region won’t necessarily be members of our community, leading to a growing number of our neighbors being left behind.
Indeed, this trend is already upon us. While the Dallas Fort-Worth region is one of the fastest growing and most economically dynamic metro areas in the nation, the resulting prosperity is not widely shared. A recent 2015 analysis by the Urban Institute, for instance, showed that the Dallas commuting zone (home to approximately 3.7 million residents) has one of the highest degrees of neighborhood inequality in the country.
We can do better.
Let’s start by challenging Secretary Carson to come back sometime soon to DFW so we can have a real public forum, and a real conversation, about what’s at stake for our region and our children’s futures. Until then, we should all find ways to roll up our sleeves and fight senseless attacks that risk our neighbors’ homes. Efforts like CarsonWatch, a grassroots campaign that I’m joining, are a good place to start.