The nomination of industry veteran Shaun Donovan to be the next housing secretary is drawing strong support from housing leaders across the nation.
Donovan, who is highly regarded as New York City’s housing commissioner, was named as Obama’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Saturday. In the hours following the announcement, industry insiders were quick to praise the selection.
“Shaun Donovan is a brilliant choice for HUD,” says Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “He is an expert on the full range of housing issues and has a proven track record of getting things done.”
Donovan has the experience to navigate the many layers of U.S. housing policy at a critical time as foreclosures mount, public housing authorities struggle to balance their budgets, and affordable housing production falls.
"We look forward to his leadership at HUD,” says Conrad Egan, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference. “We are confident in the extraordinary expertise, experience, and skills he has exhibited in both public and private-sector positions.”
As the current commissioner of New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), Donovan has led the city’s 10-year plan to build and preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing.
He also has managed New York City’s annual competition among housing developers for federal low-income housing tax credits. Run by state and local officials, the tax credit program is the largest remaining federal program to produce new affordable housing.
At HPD, Donovan has harnessed the force of the private housing market to create affordable housing with what he has described as one of the strongest inclusionary zoning ordinances in the country, offering luxury housing developers the ability to build more housing on their sites in exchange for including affordable housing in their properties.
“Donovan's rich experience in both the public and private sectors will enable him to move quickly and decisively to position HUD with much-needed capacity and expertise,” says Renee Lewis Glover, president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority.
Donovan, 42, also has deep experience with the older generation of HUD-managed affordable housing. He served as HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for multifamily during the Clinton administration, where he pioneered new tools for preserving and improving more than 2 million affordable apartments, according to housing advocacy group the National Housing Trust.
“[Donovan has] demonstrated a strong commitment to improving the lives of millions of low-income families and seniors by preserving and revitalizing existing affordable homes,” says Michael Bodaken, NHT president.
Prior to joining the Bloomberg administration in 2004, Donovan worked at Prudential Mortgage Capital Co. as managing director of its Federal Housing Administration lending and affordable housing investments.
“He has a passionate understanding of the urgent need for federal housing programs, including Sec. 8, public housing, Federal Housing Administration insurance,” says Carol Lamberg, executive director of New York City-based affordable housing developer and housing advocacy group Settlement Housing Fund, Inc. “He is a policy wonk who has political skills. He is also a very nice guy.”
Donovan has been a visiting scholar at New York University and a consultant for Congress’ Millennial Housing Commission.
His breadth of experience may serve him well as he works to implement the bold agenda hinted at by Obama for HUD in his announcement of Donovan’s appointment.
“We need to understand that the old ways of looking at our cities just won’t do,” says Obama, explaining his pick. “That means promoting cities as the backbone of regional growth by not only solving the problems in our cities, but seizing the opportunities in our growing suburbs, exurbs, and metropolitan areas.”
Donovan received his master’s in architecture and public administration from Harvard University. "Trained as an architect, Shaun understands housing down to how homes are designed, built, and wired," says Obama.