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With Castro out, which Democratic candidate will stand up for housing?

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The former HUD secretary was a vocal advocate for addressing housing costs

A group of men, including a Hispanic man at the center wearing a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, walk past a blue trailer and ground strewn with trash.
Castro tours a homeless encampment with Oakland, California city Councilmember Noel Gallo in September.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Julián Castro ended his campaign for president on Thursday, just weeks after failing to qualify for December’s Democratic debate.

Castro, who served as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the Obama administration, was the most vocal of the candidates in advocating or addressing the affordable housing crisis with federal means.

His housing plan called for billions in additional funding in affordable housing programs, including a massive expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher program, which subsidizes rent for low-income families, to include all families making less than 50 percent of the area median income. He also called for a presidential commission to examine local zoning reform.

With housing costs rising for Americans across all incomes, housing affordability was expected to be a national election issue for the first time in decades. And while most major candidates have released concrete housing plans, the issue has yet to be substantially addressed at debates, and it’s gotten overshadowed by discussions of health care and climate change on the campaign trail.

It’s reasonable to think Castro could have done more to bring attention to housing issues, and his housing plan didn’t offer much that wasn’t also in the plans of other candidates. Still, he was the candidate who was most likely to bring up housing at debates or on the trail.

With Castro out, which candidate will champion housing affordability issues?

Former vice president Joe Biden, who’s been the frontrunner throughout the race, has yet to release a formal housing proposal, but he’s the only candidate polling above 4 percent without a housing plan.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has the most aggressive housing plan, a $2.5 trillion proposal that includes national rent control and full funding for the Housing Voucher Choice program. He’s a sponsor of the Green New Deal for public housing legislation, which would invest $172 billion into retrofitting public housing to be carbon neutral and energy efficient.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a cosponsor of the Green New Deal for public housing, has a comprehensive housing plan that invests roughly $500 million in federal housing programs, most of which would go to the Housing Trust fund to build, rehabilitate, and operate 2.1 million homes for low-income families. Her plan also calls for cities and municipalities to eliminate restrictive zoning to be eligible for competitive federal grants.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg calls for $430 billion in additional funding to federal housing programs, including $170 billion to ensure every family that qualifies for Housing Choice Vouchers can receive one.

Second-tier candidates like billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Sen. Cory Booker have plans as well. Klobuchar calls for $1 trillion in federal investment in housing programs. Booker’s plan focuses heavily on housing justice for homebuyers and renters who have faced discrimination. Bloomberg’s plan mirrors those of other candidates but is light on specific investments.

While these plans show that housing affordability is an issue candidates feel the need to address, the relative silence outside of releasing those plans indicate that other issues are taking priority. And with Castro now out of the race, housing affordability needs a new vocal advocate to make sure the issue isn’t ignored in the general election and beyond.

Update: On January 6, Castro endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president.