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Julian Castro calls for surge in federal spending to end homelessness

Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro called for a sharp rise in federal spending on housing for millions of Americans who are living on the street or struggling to pay rent.

Castro, who was secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, on Monday proposed a federal guarantee of housing for the poor.

"I believe housing is a human right," he said.

A former mayor of San Antonio, Castro, 44, said he would quadruple the size of the federal Section 8 rent-voucher program, which subsidizes the housing of nearly 5.3 million Americans in low-income households.

The program, which now costs $22 billion per year, serves only 25% of the eligible households. Castro called for expanding it to the remaining 75%, transforming the program to "a fully funded entitlement program" similar to food stamps or Medicaid.

Castro said his housing agenda could be funded by repealing President Donald Trump's tax cuts and closing tax loopholes.

He predicted his plan would end homelessness for veterans and children by the end of his first term and put a stop to chronic homelessness by the end of 2028.

Castro also proposed tripling the government's homeless assistance grants to $7.5 billion. He would also offer a new tax credit for low- and middle-income tenants whose rent exceeds 30% of their income. He plans to detail the rest of his housing agenda Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

"This is a huge endeavor," he said.

Homelessness is widely seen as a growing crisis in California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii and other parts of the country where rising rents have locked the poorest Americans out of the housing market.

Castro, who has struggled to break into the top tier of nearly two dozen Democrats running for president, is the only candidate to make homelessness a major focus of his campaign.

"Obviously, this is an issue that I care a lot about, having seen the effects of both homelessness and this affordability crisis," Castro said.

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