Donovan Addresses Housing Crisis

U.S. Secretary of HUD discusses neighborhood reform

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun L.S. Donovan ’87 discussed the need to put housing development initiatives in the context of broader public concerns such as education and energy efficiency in a speech at the Graduate School of Design last night.

Donovan, who served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development beginning in 2004, was appointed by President Barack Obama to lead HUD through a severe housing crisis that has contributed to the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression.

“Millions of foreclosures have sent America’s economy into a tailspin,” Donovan said at the speech. “The nature of this crisis has revealed the need for a new direction.”

As the featured speaker at the 10th Annual John T. Dunlop Lecture, Donovan presented a sampling of the Obama administration’s plans for new housing initiatives to a crowd packed with hundreds of students, professors, and other attendees. One such proposal, the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, aims to link neighborhood transformation with school reform and calls for increased federal housing spending during the 2010 fiscal year.

“The correlation between [housing and education] is not just theory—it’s practice,” Donovan said. “It’s time to bring that practice to scale at the neighborhood level.”


In his speech, Donovan also emphasized the intersection of housing policy with other concerns, like transportation. He cited the dilemma of attempting to reduce carbon emissions while supporting urban growth as one such problem that would benefit from a broader policy analysis.

Audience members expressed support for Donovan’s approach to housing policy in a question-and-answer session following the speech. The audience also gave Donovan standing ovations both before and after his lecture.

“The secretary is sort of the fresh face of HUD,” said Ivan Levi, a second-year student at the Graduate School of Design seeking a master’s degree in urban planning. “To have him at the helm of that agency bodes well for the future of that agency and hopefully for this country.”

Donovan, who also earned graduate degrees in public administration and architecture from Harvard, said that his time in Cambridge helped him understand the connections between housing and other policy concerns.

“It was the bridge between the policy and design that enabled me to see the greater picture,” Donovan said.