US housing secretary Ben Carson had to be rescued by firefighters on Wednesday after he became trapped in an elevator at a newly refurbished Miami tower block.
Carson was visiting the Courtside Family Apartments in the city’s Overtown neighbourhood as part of a nationwide “listening tour” of affordable housing developments for low-income residents.
Carson and six others, including his wife Candy and Michael Liu, Miami-Dade County’s public housing director, were returning to the ground floor in the elevator after inspecting the upper floors of the $22.8m complex when the doors stuck in the closed position.
The group was trapped for about 20 minutes until a rescue crew from the Miami-Dade fire department prised open the doors with a crowbar. Carson emerged smiling and immediately received an apology from the waiting former professional basketball player Alonzo Mourning, whose non-profit foundation teamed up with the Housing Trust Group of Miami to convert the six-story building into a flagship development featuring 84 apartments.
“Well, we got all of our questions answered,” Carson said when asked if he was relieved about being released from his enforced meeting with the housing officials.
Carson later tweeted his thanks to Mourning, and the police and fire crews that freed him. Before stepping into an elevator at a second Miami housing project, the Collins Park apartments in nearby Allapattah, he joked to accompanying officials: “Do we have the key?”
The housing and urban development secretary is expected to face tough questioning during his two-day trip to Miami from local government officials, developers and providers of affordable accommodation over Donald Trump’s plans to slash federal housing funds.
If Congress approves Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, Carson’s department of housing and urban development would lose $6bn, or 13% of its current annual allocation.
The reduction would also eliminate the community development block grant programme, a four-decades-old federal initiative that has provided $150bn for affordable housing, mostly in depressed neighbourhoods, and the provision of public services including parks and healthcare facilities to so-called “entitlement communities”.
The Trump administration says the programme, signed into law by Gerald Ford in 1975, is wasteful and “is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results”, according to the office of management and budget’s proposal.
Among those Carson plans to meet in Miami is billionaire developer Jorge Perez, founder and chief executive of the Related Group and a long-time friend of Trump. Perez announced in January that he had turned down the president’s invitation to help build the proposed US-Mexico border wall, slamming the wall plan as “idiotic”.