Campaigning in Southern Nevada Thursday, Julián Castro — the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Barack Obama — vowed to make housing policy a focus of his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Castro is considered an underdog in the 2020 election, especially compared to candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris, who are all high-profile U.S senators with substantial national name recognition.
To make up the difference, the 44-year-old Texan hopes to set himself apart by visiting all 50 states in his 2020 bid. Before coming to Nevada this week, he made visits to Idaho and Utah.
In a crowded field of candidates, Castro is embracing his background in HUD to carve out a niche for himself, promising to make affordable housing a top priority in his presidential campaign.
Castro held a ‘living room town hall’ in a sleepy North Las Vegas neighborhood, speaking to a small group of locals about affordable living as part of a NowThis online broadcast.
“I know a lot of people here in the community are excited about the Raiders coming to Las Vegas,” Castro said. “But a lot of times we don’t think about the other effects of that. The effects on whether people who live in the community, how they’re going to be affected by rising rents or being able to get housing that they can afford.”
As president he said he would make sure that the dollars invested in local communities were used to incentivize mayors, county governments, and state governments to develop in a “holistic way.”
“It’s not just about the jobs,” he said. “It’s about what happens to everyone else in the community.”
The most significant affordable housing policies in the U.S., from public housing financing and vouchers to tax credits to promote affordable housing development, are products of federal legislation and federal spending.
But local governments must also take on the issue of housing, Castro said. For instance, local policymakers need to consider updating tax codes so that renters can receive tax credits to supplement rising rents.
“Some communities have used rent control. Other communities have put money into more affordable housing supply. We need to do all those things. Local communities have a roll to play and understand that is best in their communities,” Castro said.
On a federal level Castro said he was not prepared to support legislation for national rent control, rejecting a “one size fits all approach.” Instead he said he would support local municipalities that chose to go that path, adding that the federal government should invest heavily in affordable housing.
Making the most of his trip to Nevada, Castro spoke at multiple events, including one hosted by Make the Road Nevada, an immigrants and working class rights group.
In his speech, Castro said he was dedicated to making America the “smartest, healthiest, fairest and most prosperous” nation in the world, and called for universal pre-K education, improving public schools and offering tuition-free universal higher education and trade schools.
“Just a generation or two ago many of our university systems … were either free or almost free. So this is not something that is radical or any different from what the United States has done in years past,” Castro said.
To become the “healthiest” nation, he said he believed “everyone should have Medicare” and that the health care system needed to be reformed to provide for all.
To be the “fairest” nation on earth, reforming the justice system and the immigration system must be a priority, said Castro. He favored an “earned path to citizenship” along with strong border control.
As for “most prosperous” nation, he said “there has to be prosperity for everybody,” advocating for raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour and, again, robust affordable housing policy.
“Too many families are spending half of their income on rent. We need to invest so we provide affordable housing opportunities for the middle class and people in poverty.”
Another issue he touched on was climate change, promising that the first executive order he would sign as president would be to recommit the U.S. to the Paris climate accord.
“I don’t want to make our country anything ‘again’ I want to make our country better than its ever been,” Castro said.