High Marks for HUD Secretary-Delegate

This morning, President-elect Barack Obama announced his appointment for the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It will be Shaun Donovan, who is currently the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Though Mr. Donovan has spent some time in private industry, the majority of his work has been in academia and in government, which we consider a good thing for the HUD post. His work as leader of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s affordable housing developer has been the efficient and steady construction and rehabilitation of thousands of apartments at better prices. In a conference last year, Mr. Donovan spoke about the potential of increasing housing development around the city’s transit hubs, focusing on the link between transportation and housing. In the Clinton Administration, he was deputy secretary of multi-family housing at HUD and was a competent manager. This is a quite a difference from the two most recent Bush appointees who were:

  • Steve Preston, who was an investment banker and then a chief financial officer before assuming the post, having never held any post related to housing whatsoever. (Assumed the post June 4, 2008.)
  • Alphonso Jackson, who did have a lot of experience in housing, but who, like many Bush appointees, seemed to only want to give funds to political friends, a problem when you’re the head of HUD, which mainly gives to Democratic-run cities. (Assumed the post March 31, 2004.)

Why should we at the transport politic care about the appointment of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development? The truth is that the issues of housing and transportation are closely linked, and having a secretary who understands that better cities can be constructed when public transportation and housing are linked is a good thing. Having an appointee from New York City, who understands that fact completely, is especially good. Here’s a clip of what Mr. Obama said in his address:

We need to understand that the old ways of looking at our cities just won’t do. 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.”

Mr. Obama’s statement and Mr. Donovan’s record provide us a good indication of where we’re going in terms of government’s approach to cities in the next few years. It’s good news for people like us, because Mr. Donovan is likely to push for denser, higher-quality housing near transit stations – whether in cities or in suburbia – and Mr. Obama will likely be on his side.

Extra: here’s an Observer interview with Mr. Donovan.

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by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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