Julian Castro, former Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary and former San Antonio mayor, is one of the only candidates with a detailed plan to address homelessness. He's also promising big changes to the immigration system. But he’s struggling to get noticed in the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates.
Ending homelessness within a decade
Castro tells Press Play, "I put out a housing plan that calls for much greater investment to end homelessness by 2028." He says it calls for a $4 billion expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, a $40 billion investment in the National Housing Trust Fund, and a $5 billion investment in the Capital Magnet Fund (which deals with public housing).
For those who doubt that 2028 is a feasible time frame, Castro points to what happened when the Obama administration released its "Opening Doors" blueprint for ending veteran homelessness.
"It [Obama's blueprint] wanted to start with veteran homelessness. And between 2010 and 2016, we reduced veteran homelessness by 47 percent because the administration had a vision. It worked in a coordinated way… 19 different departments working with governors, working with mayors across the country, using the right policies like Housing First and Coordinated Entry… Republicans and Democrats came together to vote for more Housing Choice vouchers for veterans who were homeless… Everything worked like it should. If we do that, then I'm confident that we can end homelessness within a decade in our country," Castro says.
LA in particular has very high housing costs and a lot of neighborhood opposition to building denser housing. So how would Castro incentivize developers and neighborhoods to build more affordable units, and build more quickly?
Castro says that housing could be built on government land, and federal grants could be more contingent on cities adopting land-use policies that make it easier to develop affordable housing.
Immigration and asylum seekers
"I believe that we can set an orderly way to allow more people -- whether as refugees, asylum seekers, or people that are able to get a visa because of different circumstances -- to be able to come to the United States," Castro says.
Castro's immigration plan calls for decriminalizing illegal border crossings, family reunification, and increasing the number of refugees that the U.S. accepts to the statutory cap of 110,000 per year.
Castro says he believes that a lot of asylum seekers have credible claims, though not everyone who applies will be able to get in or stay in the U.S.
How would he get his immigration plan through a divided Congress? "I think that on January 20th, 2021, we're going to have a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate. I would make a strong move right away on the most important things that we need to do, including health care and immigration," Castro says.
Universal health care
"I believe that we should have Medicare available to everybody. But if somebody has a private health insurance plan that they want to hold onto, then I believe they should be able to do that," Castro says. "I also believe that just because somebody is poor… doesn't mean that they shouldn't be able to get the health care that they need, and the medication that they need when they need it."
--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy