If Julian Castro becomes the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), he wouldn’t be the first mayor from San Antonio to make the leap.
Henry Cisneros, who also led Texas’ second-largest city, served as HUD chief for four years under President Clinton.
“It makes San Antonio the cradle of HUD secretaries,” Cisneros jokes in a call with AHF.
Castro is expected to be tapped for the federal post by President Obama while HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan would take over the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The White House has not confirmed the moves, but the expectation is strong.
Cisneros sees reasons why Castro would be a good fit at the housing agency.
“San Antonio provides a good microcosm of the issues you confront at a department like HUD,” he says. “You have a chance to earn your spurs here.”
For example, one of HUD’s priority issues is ending homelessness, and San Antonio has one of the most robust homeless initiatives in the country, according to Cisneros, chairman of CityView, an investment firm focused on urban real estate. He’s also continued to be involved in housing policy, serving as co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission.
The Alamo City is also the only one to have both a Choice Neighborhood and a Promise Zone, points out Cisneros.
The Choice Neighborhoods program is a HUD initiative aimed at replacing distressed public housing and transforming struggling neighborhoods by linking housing improvements with schools, transportation, and job opportunities. HUD is also involved in Promise Zones, another program that seeks to turnaround high-poverty communities. Selected cities work closely with multiple federal agencies in a comprehensive, team approach to develop strategies and access resources. San Antonio is among the first cities selected to take part in the program.
“The Mayor can be an apostle for the concept of breaking down silos,” says Cisneros, a family friend..
The appointment would raise the national profile of 39-year-old Castro, a rising star in the Democratic Party. His twin brother is U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro.
Donovan has been at the helm of HUD since the beginning of the Obama administration. He’s also served as the point person on the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
Cisneros calls the OMB director’s seat “one of the toughest jobs in government.”
Donovan is smart and has the analytical skills needed for the post, according to Cisneros.
“The federal government is stressed,” he says. “It’s a big massive structure. This is a job that only the most capable analytical minds can do.”
Connect with Donna Kimura, deputy editor of Affordable Housing Finance, on Twitter @DKimura_AHF