As the candidate field for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president grows more crowded by the day, former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro announced over the weekend—in both English and Spanish—that he is embarking on a presidential bid of his own.
The 44-year-old San Antonio, Texas, native served as HUD Secretary for over two years under President Barack Obama and was briefly considered as a vice presidential pick for 2016 Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton. Prior to his tenure in the Obama administration, Castro served as the mayor of San Antonio for five years.
During his time as HUD Secretary, Castro worked to create the National Disaster Resilience Competition, a federal program supported by the Rockefeller Foundation that awarded $1 billion for resilient housing and infrastructure projects to states and communities that were impacted by major disasters between 2011 and 2013. That sum was in addition to over $18 billion in conventional government funding awarded to disaster-stricken communities during the Obama administration.
Castro also led the expansion of lead safety protections in federally assisted housing and helped to institute the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule to “finally fulfill the full obligation of the Fair Housing Act,” according to a 2017 memo. Castro also continued initiatives started under his predecessor that contributed to a dramatic decrease in the number of American veterans experiencing homelessness.
While mayor of San Antonio, Castro successfully inaugurated a plan to bring “high-quality, full-day pre-k” to the city’s residents.
In announcing his presidential bid over the weekend, Castro, citing a “crisis of leadership” under President Donald Trump, pledged to refocus American society to become “the smartest, healthiest, fairest, and most prosperous nation on earth.” Castro’s platform includes instituting universal healthcare, reforming the criminal justice system, and expanding access to higher education, among other initiatives.
In a nod to his time at HUD while referencing a growing housing affordability crisis around the country, Castro also pledged to “work to make sure every American has a safe, decent, and affordable place to live.” To help achieve this aim, Castro also pledged to “invest in housing that is affordable to the middle class and the poor.”
Castro also stated his support for a Green New Deal, a nascent policy initiative in the works from Democratic politicians, like Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that aims to transition the American economy away from fossil fuels and toward a sustainable and socially-just economic system. Castro pledged that as his first executive order as president, he would recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement, the global initiative aimed at keeping the temperature increase resulting from anthropogenic climate change under two degrees Celsius.
With affordable housing and climate change increasingly in the news, expect more presidential hopefuls to highlight their plans for addressing these issues. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who announced her candidacy in late December 2018, for example, has already unveiled an ambitious affordable housing proposal of her own.
If elected, Castro, the grandchild of a Mexican immigrant, would become the first president of Mexican descent and the first former HUD secretary elected to the nation’s highest office.