(Adds comments from Castro in San Antonio, Obama)
By Elvina Nawaguna
WASHINGTON, July 9 The U.S. Senate on Wednesday
confirmed Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and
Urban Development, placing the San Antonio, Texas mayor at the
top of the agency in charge of housing during a sluggish
recovery in the sector.
Castro, a Democrat who was nominated by President Barack
Obama, was confirmed on a roll call vote of 71 to 26 in the
Democratic-led Senate. The 26 senators opposed to his nomination
"We will allow more responsible Americans to achieve the
dream of home ownership," Castro told a news conference,
thanking the Senate for its bipartisan support.
He said he will resign his post as mayor of the seventh most
populous U.S. city when a new mayor is selected by the city
council, which should be in the next two weeks.
Castro will replace Shaun Donovan, who has been tapped to
lead the White House's Office of Management and Budget.
Castro, who has the backing of industry groups such as the
Mortgage Bankers Association and National Association of
Realtors, has been praised for his housing and development
programs in San Antonio, including revitalizing its downtown.
He is expected to push the Obama administration's plan to
shutter mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac, an effort that has so far stalled in Congress.
"Julián has lived the American Dream in his own life, and
I'm confident he will help Americans across our country seize
their own piece of that dream for themselves and their
children," Obama said in a statement.
Some Democrats see Castro, a Latino, as a rising star in the
party, and his new position puts him a step closer to a
potential 2016 vice presidential run.
A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School,
Castro, 39 became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city when
elected in May 2009. He gained national prominence when he
delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National
Castro told lawmakers during his first nomination hearing in
June the current U.S. housing finance system was not working
well for Americans and that he would support their reform
He said he would ensure taxpayers would not be on the hook
again if another housing crisis struck, as they were when the
government rescued Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in 2008.
Castro also said he would ensure the Federal Housing
Administration, a troubled government mortgage insurer under HUD
that was forced to take $1.7 billion in taxpayer funds last
year, would not need another rescue.
As the top U.S. housing official, he would be tasked with
making homeownership more affordable for low-income buyers.
The FHA, which aims to help first-time and low-income
borrowers, raised its mortgage insurance fees to bolster its
finances. That action locked out thousands of potential buyers,
and it now faces pressure to bring the fees down.
Castro told lawmakers it was possible to balance FHA's
mission of helping low-income borrowers with the need to keep it
"My perspective, whether it relates to the requirements for
down payments or other measures, is that we achieve this balance
to stay within the mission of the FHA - the historic mission to
ensure that first-time home buyers, that folks of modest means
who are creditworthy, that they have the opportunity to reach
the American dream of homeownership," Castro said last month.
(Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Additional reporting by Jim
Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Paul Simao and Eric Walsh)