Skip to content
CityLab
Government

How to Head Off a Coronavirus Housing Crisis

Former HUD secretary and presidential candidate Julián Castro has ideas for state and federal leaders on protecting vulnerable renters from a housing disaster.
Former HUD secretary Julián Castro says that a major expansion of federal housing assistance will be needed to prevent vulnerable renters from losing their homes.
Former HUD secretary Julián Castro says that a major expansion of federal housing assistance will be needed to prevent vulnerable renters from losing their homes.Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg

Debates about the U.S. housing crisis feel like they happened years ago; the housing plans of the Democratic presidential candidates are now artifacts from another era. The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically upended the status of millions of Americans, who may not have a plan for paying the rent in April or going forward. But those campaign schemes, full of what were once thought experiments about boosting aid for struggling households, could be roadmaps that help current leaders find the way out of this new catastrophe.

Some of those campaign ideas came from Julián Castro, whose safety net–focused presidential bid ended in January. Castro, the ex-secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama and former mayor of San Antonio, proposed a number of ideas to improve the security for America’s most vulnerable households. Most notably, he suggested expanding the Housing Choice Voucher program, which provides rental aid to low-income households, as a fully funded federal entitlement for every eligible adult in America.