During a forum billed as Prospects for Black America organized by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, federal Housing Secretary Ben Carson said he wanted to encourage public housing residents to act more like homeowners by handling their own apartment repairs.

The New York City Housing Authority has a $17 billion backlog of maintenance requests. But many of the problems are of a serious nature and include building-wide items such as leaky roofs, crumbling facades and mold infestations.

At the forum, Carson told the audience he wanted to create escrow accounts for public housing residents that would hold money for apartment repairs.  The accounts would have the potential of growing over a period of time if, instead of calling on the housing authority to fix their apartments, tenants opted to handle problems themselves.

“Your toilet’s running, I’m not calling the [public housing authority], I’m lifting the lid. I’m gonna see if I can fix it because I’m saving the money,” Carson said. “And if you leave public assistance within 5 to 10 years, you get the money for a down payment.”

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