Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Just Convinced Ben Carson That HUD’s Drug Policies Should Be Changed

Carson seems to agree that public housing tenants shouldn’t be automatically evicted if their guests break the law.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday accomplished a rare feat for a Democrat—she appeared to convince a Trump administration official that federal policy should be changed. Specifically the firebrand congresswoman from New York got Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to agree that his department’s drug and crime policies should be reformed.

During a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Ocasio-Cortez used her time to ask Carson about HUD’s stringent crime policies that could lead to public housing tenants being evicted.

As part of the War on Drugs in the 1990s, HUD encouraged local public housing authorities to adopt a “one-strike” rule, meaning that any tenant engaging in even minor criminal activity could be grounds for automatic eviction of an entire household. “A person could be stopped and frisked and be found in possession of a small amount of marijuana and then be evicted or have their entire family evicted from public housing,” Ocasio-Cortez noted. The agency also drew up what’s know as a “no-fault policy” that could lead to a family’s eviction from public housing if a guest commits a crime. “An entire family could be evicted for the criminal activity of a guest of the household, even without the knowledge of anyone in that household,” she explained.

Carson responded that the no-fault policy had “been on the books for many, many years” and that its use is “extremely limited.”

“Do you support reversing some of these provisions?” Ocasio-Cortez asked. (While local housing authorities have control over whether or not to enforce those rules, formal guidance from HUD could end them entirely.)

“Which provisions?” asked Carson. When Ocasio-Cortez asked specifically about the no-fault policy, Carson at first said he’d be willing to talk about individual cases if she had any examples to provide. But Ocasio-Cortez pressed on.

“Would you support being able to move some of these policies over to a more holistic review?” she asked. “You yourself asked for a case-by-case consideration. Should that case-by-case consideration be codified in federal law instead of having blanket, one-strike or no-fault policies?”

Carson’s answer suggested he would indeed be open to supporting such a change. “I’m always in favor of more flexibility,” he said.

“I’m happy to hear that,” Ocasio-Cortez said. Moments later, she noted she was introducing housing legislation that would include those reforms.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend