Okay, let's start this week off with some good news. Last week, in one of the few appointments that hasn't been the topic of endless speculation and media attention, Barack Obama selected Shaun Donovan to be the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Why is this such good news? Because Donavan currently is the New York City Housing Commissioner and has used that position to advocate for and experiment with ways of building affordable housing. This New York Times profile gives a good sense of Donovan's history in the housing world, including his recent accomplishments:
Under Mr. Donovan, the Bloomberg administration has promoted “inclusionary zoning” that allows developers to build multifamily structures of more density — that is, more units for the space — in return for setting aside a portion of their projects for lower-income residents.
He helped to create a $200 million fund with contributions from the city, seven major foundations and financial institutions, to help nonprofit housing groups and small developers compete for private land sales. Working more closely with HUD than local officials have in the past, he has encouraged the department to help nonprofit groups or tenants take over HUD-assisted apartment buildings that are in foreclosure; typically, the federal government put such properties up for bids.This doesn't even include his and Bloomberg's biggest plan, the $7.5 billion New Housing Marketplace Plan to build 165,000 units for low-to-moderate income by 2o13. He's well-respected in NYC housing and academic circles as innovator, which will be essential as we head to one of the worst housing crises ever. It'll be nice to have someone who has cut his teeth in New York City, the craziest real estate market in the country where affordability has been an issue for eternity. He will also bring a decidedly urban perspective on housing, understanding that white picket fences are not the end-all-be-all. Most of all, as Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings notes, it'll be nice to have someone who has worked at HUD leading that department, someone who believes in its mission and the power of the government to enact meaningful change.