Shaun Donovan took over the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) four years ago, during a full-blown housing crisis. Now, he’s at work on cleaning up another catastrophe, leading the Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts.
As former commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development, Donovan is a strong choice to oversee the recovery of his home state and the surrounding region rocked by the storm. And the valuable experience he’s gained at HUD will most certainly aid in that effort.
With his new role in leading the Sandy recovery, there has been speculation that Donovan may move to White House chief of staff or another post in the administration, but in a recent interview he downplayed the rumors that he would leave HUD.
“The President has asked me to do this,” Donovan said. “I am completely focused and committed to helping New York, New Jersey, and the surrounding region recover and continuing my day job at HUD.”
Donovan will focus on the long-term rebuilding efforts and expects new strategies to be deployed.
“Already I’m hearing a deep interest in how we fund sustainable infrastructure and energy, how we create mitigation measures whether along the barrier islands or around New York Harbor, Manhattan, New Jersey, Brooklyn, many of the areas that were affected that ensure that the next time a storm comes along we are not going to have this kind of damage,” he said. “It seems like we get a 100-year storm every few years now. We need to think differently, smarter, about how we recover. Those are clearly areas that touch every part of the recovery but touch housing very specifically, from building codes to utilities to a range of other things that touch housing.”
Of his first term at HUD, Donovan is most proud of his work on the initiatives he feels have been critical to the country’s post-recession health: the overall American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), and the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.
The Recovery Act, he says, created “not just jobs but a set of longer-term priorities in housing and community development,” an aspect of the legislation Donovan says has been “underappreciated.” And the NSP, he notes, has proved that rehab investments not only create construction jobs but revitalize neighborhoods, raise housing prices, and help restore equity, as well.
Of the Re-Housing Program, Donovan says simply, “It has begun to fundamentally change the way communities and … governments respond to homelessness, in a way I think will have powerful, lasting impacts.”
Chief among Donovan’s goals at HUD has been to “bring a team here that’s respected and seen as leaders in affordable housing, not just regulators.”
One can only imagine the passionate Donovan bringing that same commitment to rebuilding New York.