2020 Presidential Candidate Series — Julián Castro

Update 373: 2020 Presidential Cand. Series:
The Economic Agenda of Julián Castro

Julián Castro is one of the younger presidential candidates running for the 2020 Democratic nomination.  A former cabinet official under President Obama and mayor of San Antonio, Castro’s experience belies his 44 years.  He is considered a rising star in some Democratic Party circles and has been building a national profile for several years.   

Castro stuck mainly to immigration policy during the Miami and Detroit debates, but he has a legit portfolio of economic policy priorities worth examining and evaluating, which we do, below. 

Good weekends all,



Heavy on Housing 

Housing reform forms a substantial part of Castro’s economic policy platform.  His formal proposals target different sectors of housing needs, including providing tax break assistance for renters, improving the supply of affordable and public housing, and ending homelessness. 

“The rent is too damn high”

Castro is proposing to expand the Housing Choice Voucher program, a government assistance program that subsidizes rent payments for low-income households, the elderly, and those with disabilities. In 2017, one-fourth of renters in the U.S. paid more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent payments. Castro is proposing to alleviate this burden by introducing a new renters’ tax credit that would help cover some portion of rent payments that exceed 30 percent of household monthly income. 

HUD Assistance

Castro plans to augment existing programs administered by HUD, such as the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund, by providing them with a capital injection of $45 billion per year. He would also establish a National Housing Stabilization Fund that would provide support for individuals experiencing housing insecurity. Finally, Castro is proposing other measures aimed at bolstering low- and middle-income home ownership, such as lowering premiums for FHA-backed mortgages and reserving up to 10 percent of the National Housing Trust Fund for down payment assistance. 


Castro has ambitious plans to end veteran, child, and family homelessness by the end of his first term, as well as long-term homelessness by 2028. He plans to achieve this by tripling funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, investing in national homelessness initiatives and programs, and expanding Pell Grant usage to include non-tuition expenses for housing insecure students.  

Honorable Mentions 

  • Carbon Tax: Castro is in favor of a “federally-mandated price on carbon.” He says the revenue generated from the carbon tax will go towards investments in renewable energy, as well as addressing the impacts of climate change and the potential burden of climate change policies. The investment mention suggests that his carbon tax plan may include some form of tax credit, but a comprehensive proposal is yet to be announced.  
  • $15 minimum wage: In May, Castro joined a rally in Durham, North Carolina as part of the Fight for $15 movement that advocates for a $15 an hour living wage. He has linked the push for a federal $15 minimum wage to his affordable housing proposals, with both plans intended to lift lower-income households out of a working-poor situation.
  • Educating the next generation: Castro’s People First Education plan creates a universal pre-K program, expands access to college credits, and establishes new trade programs between high schools and local employers. His plan also focuses on higher education and includes proposals such as eliminating tuition at public universities, community colleges, and technical and vocational programs, expanding Pell Grants, creating a new loan forgiveness program for low-income graduates, and allowing student debt to be discharged or restructured in bankruptcy. 

Candidate Castro

As with other presidential candidates who have never been in Congress or a legislature, it is harder to discern Castro’s policy priorities outside of housing.  Without a legislative history, he is a tabula rasa. He recently surpassed the 130,000-donor threshold, one of the requirements for making the primary debates in the fall, and so will have both time and opportunity to revise and extend the record. 

As it stands, regarding economic policy, Castro appears to support a mix of progressive proposals. With immigration front-and-center for the 2020 election, we may not see many new and exciting economic platforms from candidate Castro, but the young upstart is still a candidate to watch.

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