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* Donald Trump nominates Ben Carson as housing secretary *

WASHINGTON - President-elect Donald Trump nominated Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and one-time political rival, to serve as the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Trump made the announcement early Monday, saying Carson has a "brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities."

"We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up," he added.

Carson previously said he would likely not join Trump's upcoming administration because he would rather work on issues independently -- adding that he would not want to be "pigeonholed into one particular area."

The Senate would need to confirm Carson's appointment, as is the case with all Cabinet designations.

"I am honored to accept the opportunity to serve our country in the Trump administration," Carson said in a statement. "I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation's housing needs are met."

Carson has limited experience in housing or management but in 2015 he wrote an op-ed in which he criticized a housing desegregation rule by President Barack Obama's HUD as an experimentation with "failed socialism."

HUD has an annual budget of nearly $50 billion. The agency manages a $1.6 trillion mortgage portfolio and oversees the majority of the United States' affordable housing programs, but also plays a role in education, transportation and community redevelopment.


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