President Obama will reportedly nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If confirmed by the senate, Castro will succeed Shaun Donovan, a trained architect, who has been at the agency since 2009. Donovan is expected to head the Office of Management and Budget.
Since the news about Castro broke, there has been very little discussion about what this appointment means for the future of HUD. Instead, the Chattering Class has been entirely focused on what it means for national politics. And that is not surprising given that Castro is a “rising star” in Democratic politics. He gave the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is seen as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016, and has been referred to as the “next Obama” in countless columns. Many political observers believe this nomination is a way for President Obama to increase diversity in his cabinet, and for Castro to build a national profile.
But back to the task at hand: What will Castro mean for the future of HUD? That is a hard question to answer because, again, this appointment is so wrapped up in politics. His background at the helm of a major Southwestern city brings its own distinct qualifications to the job. One possible glimpse into Castro’s legislative priorities is SA 2020, an initiative his administration launched in 2010 as a community-based approach to city planning. According to an SA 2020 progress report, by 2020, the city plans to add 5,000 new apartments downtown, reduce vehicle miles traveled per individual by 10 percent, and double attendance at cultural programs.
As HUD Secretary, Castro will be tasked with setting somewhat similar goals, but on a much larger scale. Implementing any big plans, though, will be difficult considering the president has less than three years left in his term. One immediately pressing topic on his agenda will be Rebuild By Design, a design challenge led by the agency to create a more resilient Eastern seaboard. AN recently reported that the competition’s winner would be announced in the coming weeks. A possible change of leadership at HUD is not expected to change that. An official involved with Rebuild, who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told AN “everything is moving as planned with full dedication and speed.”