POLSON — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said the federal government should take a “holistic” approach to housing in Indian Country that goes beyond putting a roof over people’s heads.
The head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spoke at the Native American Housing Association’s summer meeting in Polson on Aug. 21.
“We have a special responsibility to those who were here before all of us,” Carson said. “We need to ensure that low- and middle-income Native American families can enjoy comfortable housing just like everyone else.”
Carson touched on a number of topics during his brief remarks at the KwaTaqNuk Resort on Monday. He touted economic growth across the country, noting that the country has added more than 1 million jobs since President Donald Trump took office in January. He also mentioned that a recent HUD study reported that Indian Country needs more than 68,000 housing units to replace those that are considered deficient, although he offered few specifics on how the agency would address that concern.
Carson, who prior to being named HUD secretary was a noted neurosurgeon, spent the most time talking about how drug use in Indian Country and across the nation can “rip” communities apart. Earlier this month, Trump dubbed opiate abuse “a national emergency,” according to Carson.
“As a doctor, few things break my heart more than to hear of families torn down and torn apart by substances which damage bodies and minds,” Carson said.
The HUD secretary briefly strayed from his prepared remarks to note that he believed marijuana use was just as problematic as opiate abuse.
“I’m not all that enthusiastic about marijuana because there have been numerous studies that show exposing a developing brain to marijuana can lead to lower IQs,” he said. “We already have enough people with a low IQ, and we don’t need anymore.”
Carson said the best way to build stronger communities and help those in Indian Country is to reduce government regulations.
“One of my pet peeves is bureaucracy,” he said. “I don’t like bureaucrats because they think the rules are more important than the goals. They’re not bad people; they’re just mixed up.”