Julian Castro confirmed as US housing secretary

This May 23, 2014 file photo shows US President Barack Obama (left) with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as he speaks during a ceremony in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, DC. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was confirmed
This May 23, 2014 file photo shows US President Barack Obama (left) with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as he speaks during a ceremony in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, DC. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was confirmed on Wednesday as US President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, cementing the 39-year-old’s status as a rising Latino political star. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was confirmed on Wednesday as US President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, cementing the 39-year-old’s status as a rising Latino political star.

The US Senate confirmed Castro 71 votes to 26 in a broad bipartisan move that makes him the youngest in Obama’s 15-member cabinet.

“Julian is a proven leader,” Mr Obama said in a statement after the confirmation.

“Julian 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.”

Mr Castro, the youngest mayor in the country’s 50 largest cities, was the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention of 2012.

The party uses the quadrennial event to promote promising young politicians, such as Mr Obama who addressed the 2004 convention shortly before his election to the US Senate.

Some see Mr Castro as a promising potential vice-presidential pick in 2016, and his appointment to the HUD post could be a way to further boost his national profile.

The charismatic Mr Castro has the double advantage of being a Hispanic-American from Texas, a Republican-controlled southern state where Democrats hope demographic changes can help them make inroads there.

He grew up in Texas and graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School.

Mr Castro’s twin brother Joaquin Castro is a member of Congress.

Mr Castro’s main challenges at HUD will include rebuilding the housing market and reducing homelessness among veterans.