May 24th, 2015
02:42 PM ET

State of the Union EXCLUSIVE: HUD Secretary Julian Castro: "Since 2010, we have seen a 33 percent reduction in veteran homelessness…”

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, Julian Castro (2014 – present), joined senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta to discuss the issue of urban development becoming a topic of discussion due to the situations in Baltimore, Ferguson and Cleveland, ending veteran homelessness, Hillary Clinton’s emails and if he would consider being Clinton’s vice presidential candidate.

Text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below

MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”

HIGHLIGHTS

Castro on situations in Cleveland and Baltimore becoming a topic of discussion for urban development:  “…we see out there, whether it's Baltimore, what's happened in Ferguson, what's going on in Cleveland right now, does give us I think as a nation an extra impetus to focus on these issues.  And I believe that one of the lasting legacies of the Obama administration is that, for the first time in these efforts, we figured out that it's not just about improving housing, it's not just what HUD is doing, it's also improving education in the neighborhood, improving transit options, of course improving job opportunities.”

Castro on the issue of the veteran homelessness: “There's a lot we are doing and that we're going to keep working hard.  This is actually one of the best news stories out there.  In 2010, President Obama became the first president to say we're not just going to talk about reducing veteran homelessness, we're actually going to end it.  And since 2010, we have seen a 33 percent reduction in veteran homelessness…”

Castro on being on Hillary Clinton’s campaign ticket: “I have found in life, like I bet a lot of folks watching out there, that the best thing to do in life is to do a great job with what's in front of you, and I am trying to do a great job at HUD and make sure that we benefit Americans out there, this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, when we think about our veterans, the fact that all of us together on both sides of aisle are committed to making a difference in getting the veterans a place to live, and that it's happening… That's what I'm focused on these days.”

Castro on Hillary Clinton’s email scandal:  “This thing [Benghazi] has been studied to death by Republicans and Democrats, several committees including in Congress that have all said, yes, of course what happened was tragic, but Secretary Clinton was not in any way at fault.  And what you have here, with the e-mails, is basically a witch hunt.  And Congressman Gowdy, who is leading this, is very intentionally trying to manipulate this witch hunt to play politics.  That's unfortunate, and is one of the reasons why Congress has a 19 percent approval rating.  I think that we need to focus on more substantive things.”

TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR:  Here now, Julian Castro, the Secretary of Housing & Urban Development.  He and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off the agency's 50th anniversary by highlighting efforts to create and maintain affordable housing, especially in revitalized urban areas where costs are soaring at an astronomical rate.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us this morning.  We appreciate it.

JULIAN CASTRO, SECRETARY OF HOUSING & URBAN DEVELOPMENT:  It is great to be with you.

ACOSTA:  Thank you.  And we noticed with the situation in Cleveland over the weekend, the situation in Baltimore, Ferguson, this issue of urban development is becoming more and more a critical component for you when it comes to dealing with these cities that are facing some major issues.

And I'm just curious, how - is this becoming more of a topic of conversation for you to sort of deal with urban development in cities that are facing tough times to sort of prevent the next Baltimore from happening, the next Ferguson from happening?

CASTRO:  You know, HUD this year is marking its 50th year anniversary, so I would say that the focus on these issues, which has never left in terms of the department, however you're right that what we see out there, whether it's Baltimore, what's happened in Ferguson, what's going on in Cleveland right now, does give us I think as a nation an extra impetus to focus on these issues.

And I believe that one of the lasting legacies of the Obama administration is that, for the first time in these efforts, we figured out that it's not just about improving housing, it's not just what HUD is doing, it's also improving education in the neighborhood, improving transit options, of course improving job opportunities.  And through place-based work, the Obama administration is working with local leaders in cities across the United States and rural areas as well to lift up the quality of life and provide more economic opportunity out there.

And I think you're to see the impact of this in the years to come even in some of the toughest areas in the United States.

ACOSTA:  How do you respond to this notion, and I'm sure you've heard it in recent weeks in response to what happened in Baltimore, that the Great Society was a failure?  And I know that this is a time when you and the rest of the administration would like to see more resources going into our urban areas.

CASTRO:  There are people that say that, and I would say that they're dead wrong.  In fact, what we see today in the United States is, because of these efforts, for instance, we've see a strong reduction in childhood poverty.  The challenge is that even when we find, based on evidence, initiatives that work - for instance, our housing choice voucher program was a subject of a massive longitudinal study by Raj Chetty and Larry Katz out of Harvard, that showed that educational and employment outcomes improve when young people have the benefit of a housing choice voucher so that they can move with their family to a place of low poverty and higher opportunity.  Even when we find things that work, for instance in this budget the president is requesting about 100,000 more vouchers than we have now, because we've lost nearly 70,000 to sequestration - and we're not getting the resources from the Congress to make those investments.  And so it's about resources and it's about how we coordinate better with local leaders to make a good impact on the ground.

ACOSTA:  And I want to switch gears a little bit, because it's Memorial Day weekend, to ask you about this issue of veteran homelessness, which is an issue that you have to deal with at the Housing and Urban Development Department.  And according to your department, veteran homeless has decreased 33 percent since 2010, but there are still 50,000 homeless vets in America.  We see them on the streets of Washington; people will see them on the streets of Washington as they head to Arlington National Cemetery, for example, this weekend.  What more can we do for them?

CASTRO:  There's a lot we are doing and that we're going to keep working hard.  This is actually one of the best news stories out there.  In 2010, President Obama became the first president to say we're not just going to talk about reducing veteran homelessness, we're actually going to end it.  And since 2010, we have seen a 33 percent reduction in veteran homelessness, mostly for two reasons - because the president led and worked well with the Congress to get more what are called HUD-VASH vouchers so that veterans who are homeless can actually get a voucher, go into the private market, and get a place to live.  And secondly because communities across the United States have signed up to be part of the challenge to end veteran homelessness, and have adopted policies like Housing First, getting veterans into housing instead of making them live in shelters or transitional living facilities.  Because of that, we expect that we will effectively end veteran homelessness.

ACOSTA:  And that would be quite an accomplishment that you could tout in a run in 2016 if you were to be put on Hillary Clinton's ticket.  I know you've heard this question time and again.  I can't let you go without talking about this.  What do you make of this when you see the former San Antonio mayor and former secretary at your department, Henry Cisneros, say this.  He says, "When I am hearing in Washington, including from people in Hillary Clinton's campaign, is that the first person on their list for vice president is Julian Castro.  They don't have a second option."

So I guess that's it.  You've got the job.  So congratulations.

CASTRO:  I doubt that.  You know, if I had a dime for every amount of speculation that happens in D.C., I think all of us would be wealthy.

ACOSTA:  Your budget would be a lot bigger, is that –?

CASTRO:  That's right.  Who wouldn't be flattered by that?  But I have found in life, like I bet a lot of folks watching out there, that the best thing to do in life is to do a great job with what's in front of you, and I am trying to do a great job at HUD and make sure that we benefit Americans out there, this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, when we think about our veterans, the fact that all of us together on both sides of aisle are committed to making a difference in getting the veterans a place to live, and that it's happening.  And we are going to have that glorious day in the not-too-distant future when we can say we have effectively ended veteran homelessness.  That's what I'm focused on these days.

ACOSTA:  Let me ask you one more question about the 2016 campaign.  These e-mails that have been released by the State Department with respect to Hillary Clinton and her time there, the private e-mails that she was using to conduct business at the department, do you believe that she has answered that question appropriately and fully?

CASTRO:  Oh, absolutely.

ACOSTA:  You're satisfied.

CASTRO:  Oh, I do.  I mean, let's take a look at this issue with Benghazi.  This thing has been studied to death by Republicans and Democrats, several committees including in Congress that have all said, yes, of course what happened was tragic, but Secretary Clinton was not in any way at fault.  And what you have here, with the e-mails, is basically a witch hunt.  And Congressman Gowdy, who is leading this, is very intentionally trying to manipulate this witch hunt to play politics.  That's unfortunate, and is one of the reasons why Congress has a 19 percent approval rating.  I think that we need to focus on more substantive things.

As one who hasn't spent my lifetime in D.C., I know that out there in America, they care about are you reducing veteran homelessness?  Are you providing the impetus for young people to be able to achieve their dreams?  Are we making sure that America in this 21st Century remains the undisputed land of opportunity?  Not whether somebody had e-mails or didn't have them.

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA:  Do you use a private e-mail account?

CASTRO: I have my government e-mail account.  Of course, I have my private e-mail, but I have my government e-mail.  But that's beside the point.  I think she hasn't -

ACOSTA:  You do government business on the government e-mail account and private -

CASTRO:  That's right.

ACOSTA:  - business on the private.

CASTRO:  And she's already explained that.  People want us to focus, as policymakers, on things that matter to their lives.  They want us to make a difference in creating more opportunity out there, and that’s just a witch hunt that is a sideshow.  I think the work that we're doing to end veteran homelessness is a good example of something that matters.

ACOSTA:  All right, Secretary Castro, thank you very much for your time this morning.  We appreciate it.

CASTRO:  Thank you.

END


Topics: CNN • Jim Acosta • State of the Union
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