Ben Carson, M.D., testifies at the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing.

Assessing the comments Ben Carson, M.D., made Thursday during his confirmation hearing for the role of secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel said that she was encouraged by his seemingly newfound appreciation for HUD programs but not by his reiteration of President-elect Donald Trump’s commitment to cut nondefense discretionary spending by 1% annually.

“He gave strong support to rental assistance programs, public housing, [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing] vouchers, Community Development Block Grants, Choice Neighborhoods and lead abatement programs, and he recognized the role housing plays as a social determinant of health,” Yentel said of Carson in a statement. “He acknowledged that fair housing is the ‘law of the land’ and committed to upholding and implementing the law.”

Due to the inflationary nature of HUD programs serving low-income senior citizens and others, however, the proposed reductions in nondefense discretionary “could amount to cuts as deep as 30% by 2026, devastating housing programs for the lowest income people,” she added. More than 84% of HUD’s budget provides direct housing assistance, Yentel said.

The NLIHC leader said she was pleased with the commitment Carson expressed during the hearing to advocate for HUD’s programs within the administration and that the NLIHC is committed to working with him if his appointment is confirmed.

One bump in Carson’s hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee came when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked whether he could assure legislators and others that no taxpayer dollars controlled by HUD for housing development grants and loans would financially benefit Trump and his family’s real estate business. “Dr. Carson danced around the question, because here’s the truth: He can’t make that promise,” Warren said on her Facebook page.