HUD Secretary Ben Carson says he wants to resolve CA's housing crisis

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson arrived at a public housing development in San Francisco on Tuesday to learn more about the city's homeless crisis. 

Carson toured the 72-unit HOPE SF building, Potrero Terrace in Potrero Hill, which opened its doors in May, but rejected an invitation from Mayor London Breed, who wanted to push for increased federal funding for homeless services and affordable housing. 

Carson walked the site and met with residents to see how the partnership between Bridge Housing and the city worked to redevelop the site. 

Carson said he's looking for solutions to high-cost housing and homelessness. 

The secretary said there needs to be better cooperation between all levels of government. 

"The city should be able to sit down with the state and sit down with the federal government as opposed to saying, 'This is what we need, this is what we need, and if you don't give it to us you're bad people,'" he said. 

Activist Uzuri Pease-Greene didn't join the official tour, but did get a chance to speak with the secretary and is hopeful his visit means a renewed commitment to ensuring housing. 

"And then when I was introduced to him he was saying how he would like to come back and listen to the resident voices, and so I took that as a positive as well," she said. 

Carson also responded to Governor Newsom's request for 50,000 more vouchers saying the city and state need to make sure the vouchers are being used. 

He added that only 65 percent had been used. 

"The money goes with the ability to come up with the ability to work together. The Federal Government is designed to facilitate, no solve all the problems," he explained. 

Carson's visit was met with more than a dozen protesters who showed up at the housing development on 1101 Connecticut St. They argue that over the years, funding has steadily been stripped from housing— a trend that has accelerated with the Trump administration. 

Sam Lew with the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness said, "What we know is that the federal government has not been cooperating because they haven't been investing in housing, public housing, affordable housing." 

Breed released a statement that read in part, "When I learned Secretary Ben Carson was coming to San Francisco, I invited him to meet to discuss the decades of federal funding cuts to public housing... I would also like to discuss some of the horrific proposed rule changes that target our immigrant communities living in public housing."

Carson's visit to San Francisco comes on the heels of a report released by the administration of President Donald Trump on Monday, titled "The State of Homelessness in America." The report stated that 47 percent of the country's homeless population is concentrated in California, with San Francisco, Santa Rosa, San Jose and Los Angeles being the cities with the highest amount of homeless people.

The report estimated that by deregulating the housing market, home prices would drop and homelessness in San Francisco could fall by as much as 54 percent.

This report says nothing new. It's touts deregulation, it touts criminalization, and it touts blaming homeless people themselves," Sara Shortt, executive director of the Community Housing Partnership, said during the protest.

"They [the Trump administration] have done nothing to improve access to mental health care. They are de-funding the cities and then coming out here to cities like San Francisco and blaming the municipalities and blaming the people who live here. We don't want anymore of their blame. We 
want real solutions," Shortt said.

Carson was able to escape the protesters by entering the building via an SUV that entered through the gated garage.

The building Carson toured is part of the HOPE SF Project, an initiative approved by the Board of Supervisors back in 2017 to completely rehabilitate the city's Housing Authority sites.

Carson's visit came on the same day that President Trump made his first visit to the Bay Area since his inauguration

Bay City News reporter Daniel Montes and Associated Press reporter Stefanie Dazio contributed to this report.