WASHINGTON, DC -- The country is experiencing a gradual housing market recovery, but rental prices and housing costs are becoming unaffordable to middle income families in some cities like Washington, D.C. What then are the housing needs of Americans and how are they being addressed? Housing Secretary Julian Castro spoke with NBC Latino and others Thursday to answer questions about his agency’s work and meeting housing demand. Here are five takeaways from the session:
--Castro said the agency is urging the Congress to add $4 billion to its $45.3 billion budget. One of four people eligible for Housing and Urban Development assistance actually get it, he said. “There are tremendously more needs than we are able to serve with our current resources.”
--Castro said about $3 billion of the funding increase request is “keeping what we have" functioning. In addition, the increase would provide $345 million for homeless assistance and $492 million for special purpose vouchers that range from vouchers for victims of dating and domestic violence to vouchers for young people aging out of the foster care system.
--A holistic approach to housing, what the agency calls the Choice Neighborhoods initiative, is the new approach to public housing. The program provides grants to local groups that want to revitalize neighborhoods with HUD housing. But it’s not just about improving housing, but also working to ensure the neighborhoods also provide education opportunities, transportation and environmental issues, he said.
--The agency is able to make renovations to public assistance housing through the Rental Assistance Demonstration program with private financing. “It allows us to make renovations to public housing across the United States that otherwise just wouldn’t get done because we have a $26 billion backlog in repair needs and we lose 10,000 units of public housing to disrepair every year.”
--Castro said he is “convinced” considering disparate impact when analyzing housing fairness has been a “reasonable tool to ensure we have a level playing field.” A case out of Texas that is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling challenges use of disparate impact in determining housing discrimination.
--Asked whether he is being groomed as a vice presidential candidate, Castro said he’s met potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on a couple of occasions and “that’s the extent to which she and I have spoke.”