Photo of Julian Castro

Castro Campaign Press Release - People First Housing

June 17, 2019

Housing is a human right.

Housing is also a platform to opportunity, something I know through personal experience, through data, and through the stories of the many people I have met in my 11 years of public service. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, I led a team of 8,000 employees and managed a $48 billion annual budget to create a stronger platform that would lift people out of poverty and into the middle class.

At HUD, we worked to end homelessness, we made homeownership more available and affordable for all families, we worked to make sure all HUD homes were healthy homes, we made more housing opportunities available for returning citizens, we expanded fair housing, we required federally-funded homeless shelters to open their doors to transgender individuals seeking shelter that conforms to their identity, and we worked to connect families in public housing to low-cost, high-speed internet.

Solving the Rental Affordability Crisis and Ending Homelessness

Making Rents More Affordable

To help folks cover skyrocketing rent prices, I would combine the traditional Housing Choice Voucher program that serves lower-income folks with a new renters' tax credit to give relief to middle-income folks. The vouchers will help to stabilize those who need to get their feet under them, and the tax credit will help to move renters into homeownership where they can create intergenerational wealth.

1. Expand and Reform the Housing Choice Voucher Program

The housing choice voucher program is designed to target families with the highest need and to increase housing mobility, help deconcentrate poverty, and combat racial segregation. However, too many families in need are left out of this critical assistance. Right now, only 25% of eligible families receive vouchers, and the program is defined so narrowly that many more are waiting for help. My plan would:

  • Ensure every family that needs a voucher will receive one by transforming the program to a fully-funded entitlement program.
  • Expand the housing choice voucher program to cover all families under 50 percent of area median income, providing a safety net for individuals who need assistance.
  • Work with Congress to prohibit discrimination based on source of income, to protect individuals that use federal housing support or vouchers, state or local support, or other forms of government support.
  • Expand access to the program by creating an exemption for eligible income based on student loan payments to ensure that income taken up by student loan debt does not disqualify families from eligibility.
  • Ensure vouchers are priced to reflect market rents by fully implementing, increasing enforcement, and closely monitoring the Small Area Fair Market Rents Rule.

2. Create a Renters' Tax Credit

Many low- and middle-income renters are ineligible for the Housing Choice Voucher program, but, because prices in many markets are skyrocketing, they are still struggling to pay rent. According to one recent study, a renter earning the federal minimum wage would need to work 122 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom rental home and 99 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom rental home. In 2017, one in four renters paid more than 30 percent of their monthly income in rent. My plan would:

  • Provide relief for low- and middle-income renters by creating a refundable tax credit or a portion of rent payments that exceed 30 percent of income.
  • The progressive renters' tax credit would support individuals with incomes up to the area median income, prioritizing support for lower-income individuals, would cover families between 50 percent and 100 percent of Area Median Income, would be paid monthly, and would, take into account the local Small Area Fair Market Rents designation.
  • Participants could choose to direct credits to a tax-advantaged savings account to be used for a down payment on a mortgage.

3. Increase the Supply of Affordable Housing

  • Support construction of affordable housing units by increasing the Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund by at least $45 billion per year.
  • The Trust Fund will also be used for additional public housing construction for vulnerable communities including senior citizens.
  • Lowering long-term costs in affordable and public housing by investing in durability, sustainability, and energy efficiency through an 8-year initiative to upgrade all public housing units with capital improvements, totaling $5 billion a year for ten years.
  • Expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) by $4 billion a year and reform it to better direct private investment in expanding the supply of affordable housing for low-income families, pilot local revolving loan funds to accelerate development timelines, and adapt and reform the program to accommodate its expansion. These reforms will ensure its effectiveness, lower its costs, and strengthen federal oversight and protections over state-run LIHTC programs. They will also spur incentives to extend the period before apartments can be converted to market-rate units to up to 50 years and prioritize new construction in high-opportunity areas.

4. Reform local zoning reforms that inhibit affordable housing development:

  • Establish federal guidelines on land use and zoning through a Presidential Commission on Zoning Reform, with input from government agencies that include the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency, in addition to civil rights groups and representatives from state and local governments. Ensure guidelines are consistent with efforts to combat segregation in public schools and address practices like red-lining and exclusionary zoning.
  • Reform local zoning practices by expanding the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and Rural Development programs by $2 billion a year. Require zoning reforms in communities that promote affordable, inclusive, and transit-oriented housing to be eligible for new funding and in prioritizing existing CDBG, Home Investment Partnerships Program, and transportation grant funding. Require an affirmative implementation of policies that further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act to address racial disparities in local zoning.

End Homelessness in the United States

  • Set bold targets to:
  • Build on the progress of the Obama administration and end veteran homelessness by the end of my first term.
  • End child, family, and youth homelessness by the end of my first term.
  • End chronic homelessness by 2028.
  • Permanently authorize the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness to oversee this effort.
  • Ensure individuals impacted by homelessness have a meaningful and direct hand in developing and implementing policies to address homelessness.
  • Increase funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants by $5 billion, to $7.5 billion, tripling current spending.
  • Establish a consistent, government-wide definition of homelessness that accounts for variable housing arrangements experienced by homeless families, children, and youth.
  • Invest in programs for individuals who are homeless or housing insecure:
  • Establish permanent supportive housing initiatives to provide healthcare and other services to individuals in need who are at risk of becoming homeless.
  • Expand local crisis response systems to provide healthcare and other services to individuals in need who are at risk of becoming homeless.
  • Support rapid rehousing and case management programs that provide immediate, short-term wrap-around services in a comprehensive effort to reduce the amount of time an individual or family is between homes.
  • Ensure community development programs, including infrastructure development, accounts for the impact on homeless and other vulnerable communities.
  • Support eligible organizations in repurposing vacant federal properties under Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act into facilities that assist homeless communities, including through permanent housing, and streamline Section V enforcement by designating the Department of Housing and Urban Development as the main implementing agency.
  • Decriminalize homelessness and encourage local efforts to end loitering, vagrancy, and other discriminatory laws.
  • Work with Congress to prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived housing status in housing, voting, education, voter registration, interactions with law enforcement, and employment. Support local efforts to end exclusion of residents experiencing homelessness from public space.
  • End homelessness among college students through an expansion of Pell Grants to cover non-tuition expenses for students, including food and housing. Expand McKinney-Vento support for housing-insecure students and encourage institutional assessments on basic needs instability.
  • Work to guarantee a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction through incentives for state and local governments to amend their laws.
  • Combat homelessness for people with mental illness by expanding access to medical care, including mental health care, through universal healthcare coverage under an expanded Medicare program.

Providing Fair Housing to All Americans and Aligning Housing Policy with Climate Goals

Discrimination in housing is nothing new. For centuries, many Americans have been prevented from finding quality, affordable housing because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, legal status, or disability. Additionally, historically discriminatory practices like redlining, limiting access to credit, or stacking housing-assisted families in high rises have left our neighborhoods racially segregated and prevented many from obtaining housing opportunity.

We made tremendous progress in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act, groundbreaking legislation that has helped to reduce barriers to housing opportunities for Americans of all different backgrounds. Five decades later, the Fair Housing Act remains critically important to our efforts to prevent housing discrimination—but we must go further. We must strengthen enforcement of our fair housing laws. We must do more to make sure housing is accessible to our seniors and those with disabilities. We must do more ensure that Americans are not prevented from obtaining housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We must protect against gentrification as we work to revitalize our neighborhoods. And we must do more to desegregate our neighborhoods, which will also lead to desegregation of our children's schools.

However, in recent years we've taken steps backward. Rather than working to eliminate housing discrimination, the Trump administration froze a landmark rule passed during my time at HUD to ensure all communities had the resources needed to overcome historic segregation.

My People First Housing plan calls for a redoubling of our efforts to crack down on discriminatory housing practices, to desegregate our neighborhoods, to foster inclusive communities, and to ensure our housing goals are climate-conscious.

Providing Fair Housing for All Americans

Beginning by re-implementing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule to help communities accurately measure and reduce racial disparities in housing, and protecting the rights of women, LGBTQ individuals.

  • Reinstitute the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's ability to enforce the Fair Housing Act and mechanism for combating discrimination in housing.
  • Enforce the Fair Housing Act with the full power of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. Expand and empower the department to investigate the role of corporations, including banks and technology companies, and those who run them, in driving up the cost of housing.
  • Prohibit discrimination in housing and denial of access to capital based on previous arrest or criminal records and support reintegration from the criminal justice system, as part of a broader effort to end consideration of criminal history in employment and access to government services.
  • Defend housing protections for women by passing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and building on the progress made in 2016 to strengthen its protections for vulnerable women.
  • Extend non-discrimination protections for members of the LGBTQ community in housing and employment through passing the Equality Act, which also combats discrimination against the LGBTQ community broadly.
  • Reinstate and formalize the Gender Identity Rule to provide transgender and gender nonconforming people access to sex-segregated housing and shelter facilities on the basis of their gender identity.
  • Ensure long-term support services are provided for an expanded Medicare program, including for individuals with disabilities and senior citizens.
  • Support individuals with disabilities' access to affordable housing units by:
  • Supporting the Office of Fair Housing and Opportunity in enforcing relevant parts of disability protections in housing;
  • Committing to the construction of affordable housing units for individuals with disabilities through all federal programs, including through the National Housing Trust Fund, the Capital Magnet Fund, and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit; and
  • Ensuring individuals with disabilities have priority to occupy units designed for their needs.
  • Support tribal sovereignty, housing innovation, and government-to-government communication. Establish a Tribal Intergovernmental Advisory Committee to increase communication with tribal leadership on housing programs.
  • Work with Congress to ensure full funding of Indian Housing Block Grant program, the Indian Community Development Block Grant Program program, and the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant.
  • Reverse discriminatory policies currently under consideration by the Trump administration, 'Public Charge Rule' and the rule to prohibit 'mixed-status' immigrant families in public housing.
  • Expand protections for homeowners residing in manufactured and mobile homes and actively prevent gentrification by working with state and local governments to improve oversight of rent increases and redevelopment that displaces families, supporting the renters in purchasing the land their homes reside on, addressing the effect of corporate practices that have displaced families in manufactured and mobile homes, and investigating the role of private equity and Real Estate Investment Trusts in displacing families and raising housing costs.
  • Support aging in place for seniors, allowing them to stay in their homes and neighborhoods after retirement, including modifications of homes through Medicare to prevent falls and other hazards, and encouraging development that centers public-transit.

Revitalizing Communities

  • Combat the impact of gentrification and urban decay to communities and prevent displacement of residents.
  • Identify metrics to identify communities that are in the early stages of gentrification, and enact affirmative efforts to prevent displacement before it happens.
  • Use demonstrable efforts to prevent displacement due to gentrification as a consideration in awarding competitive grants for localities.
  • Provide additional forms of assistance designed to keep rents affordable and communities stable, including technical support and small business loans to support entrepreneurship.
  • Increase use of Small Area Fair Market Rents designations so that rental assistance can more quickly respond to rent increases and keep rents affordable.
  • Constitute a federal initiative to target assistance to high-poverty communities, identifying communities through a competitive process that builds on the successes of previous programs such as the Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Zone initiatives.
  • Expand access to capital and technical support for small businesses, a vital part of our communities. By providing $75 billion annually in additional loans through the Small Business Administration's loan program, we would support an additional 150,000 small businesses each year, adjusting fees and loan guarantees to reduce risk and raising loan guarantee amounts.
  • Develop more Live/Work communities that co-locate residences with work spaces using affordable housing programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. These plans promote urban growth and sustainable development, and foster transit-oriented development.

Aligning Housing and Community Planning Policy with Climate Goals

The climate-driven natural disasters of this era demand a proactive plan for our nation's infrastructure and zoning, as well as a defensive plan to rebuild following damaging storms.

  • Establish a $200 Billion Green Infrastructure Fund as part of a broader climate-conscious infrastructure plan that would bridge the $2 trillion infrastructure gap in the United States.
  • Support public transportation, energy efficiency building upgrades, climate resilience, a modernized energy grid that includes high-voltage direct current lines, energy storage, water conservation, public electric vehicle charging stations, and other investments through direct grants and concessional and non-concessional loans.
  • Part of a broader effort to combat climate change, achieve net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, reduce U.S. emissions to at least half of 2005 emissions levels by 2030, and meet the promise of the Green New Deal.
  • The Green Infrastructure Fund would leverage private capital, support local jobs and communities, and include strong protections for unionized labor in construction, maintenance, and operation.
  • Require climate sensitivity and 'Carbon Scoring' in future planning and government projects that would ensure any government project contributes towards meeting climate goals and sets benchmarks to reduce carbon impact and mitigate climate change, including net-zero carbon emission targets for new federal housing construction. The Environmental Protection Agency would be required to score all major federal government projects with their impact on our carbon goals.
  • Ensure zoning reforms enacted through this plan further climate goals through higher density housing, transit-oriented development, incorporating resilience in new developments, and other city planning practices that lower commute times, diminish reliance on personal vehicles, reduce destruction by natural weather events, and lower carbon emissions.
  • Establish Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Assistance as a permanent program to help communities recover from natural disasters more effectively, and support long-term sustainable land use.

Boost Homeownership and Hold Wall Street Accountable

Part of the American Dream is to own a home — a place where we raise our kids and make meals, where we study and relax, and where we gather for celebrations and find comfort amongst family members. Owning a home not only opens the doors of opportunity, it spurs intergenerational wealth and provides millions of Americans with a sense of community and belonging.

But for far too many, the dream of owning a home has been out of reach. Stagnant wages, limited access to credit, and economic uncertainty stemming from the Great Recession has made homeownership more and more difficult for millions of Americans. Families across the country are doubling up in relatives' homes, college graduates are returning home to live with their parents, and the increasing cost of rental housing is keeping families stuck in a cycle.

As HUD Secretary under President Obama, we worked everyday to help more Americans realize their dream of homeownership, and to ensure those who are struggling to pay their mortgages could stay in their homes. But we can do more. My plan would help more families get the credit they need to mortgage a home, would provide support for those who are housing insecure, would increase homeownership and rental literacy, and boost accountability, transparency, and oversight of Wall Street's housing practices to ensure more families can stay in their homes.

Increase Homeownership

Homeownership increases intergenerational wealth and economic mobility — in other words, it's good for our economy. Encouraging responsible borrowers to become homeowners by reducing the barriers to homeownership is particularly impactful for communities of color, young people, and others who have historically been locked out of this critical economic opportunity. I want more folks to have that opportunity. Here's how I would increase homeownership:

  • Establish a National Housing Stabilization Fund, jointly operated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services, to provide support for individuals who are experiencing housing insecurity, including managing small expenses that put them at risk for foreclosure.
  • Make credit more accessible and reduce the number of "credit invisible" would-be borrowers by:
  • Requiring issuers of FHA-backed mortgages to account for a greater variety of indicators when assessing creditworthiness, including crediting on-time payments for rent, cell phone payments, utilities, student loans, and other transactions prioritized by low-income individuals and families.
  • Work with financial institutions to expand access in under-served communities, including minority and rural communities.
  • Reduce premiums for FHA-backed mortgages to boost access to affordable mortgages and make homeownership more affordable.
  • Reserve up to 10% of the National Housing Trust Fund towards down-payment assistance for prospective low-income first-time home buyers.
  • Encourage homeownership under the Renters Tax Credit by allowing credits to be placed in tax-advantaged savings accounts for down payments, helping close the racial wealth and homeownership gap.
  • Support housing counseling, renter education, and financial literacy programs that are proven to help homebuyers, homeowners and renters keep more money in their pockets.

Hold Wall Street Accountable

  • Defend and rebuild the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), preserving its independence and expanding its ability to protect the rights of consumers and conduct oversight of banks, payday lenders, and other financial institutions in a transparent and effective manner.
  • Restore the enforcement and oversight powers of Office of Fair Lending and Opportunity within the CFPB.
  • Reopen the Office for Students and Young Consumers to protect young individuals, including students.
  • Provide maximum transparency for the Consumer Complaint Database, allowing the public to utilize the database to better understand the behavior of financial institutions.
  • Support reforms to the housing finance system, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that reinforce their mission to support housing opportunities for low and moderate income and minority communities while protecting taxpayers and the economy.
  • Ensure any distressed mortgages that need to be sold are placed in the hands of mission-driven non-profits with a track record of working in communities, passing legislation to enable these non-profits to receive a discount on these mortgages, requiring purchasers of these mortgages to retain the terms and protections of the original loan, and prioritizing principal reduction during any sale.
  • Strengthen the Department of Justice's independence and ability to hold banks and bankers accountable for violations of the law, including civil rights violations, to ensure high standards of accountability, transparency, and actions by financial institutions.
  • Direct the Securities and Exchange Commission to publish information from large private funds, including Real Estate Investment Trusts, and other firms that are involved in the real estate market on their portfolios and impact on communities they are active in, including on increased housing costs and impact on vulnerable communities including senior citizens, minorities, and families in poverty.

Julián Castro, Castro Campaign Press Release - People First Housing Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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