A homecoming for HUD’s new secretary

February 13, 2009
Shaun Donovan was New York City’s commissioner of housing preservation and development, in charge of overseeing the Bloomberg administration’s plan to build or preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing, from 2004 until 2008, when he took a leave of absence to work on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Now he is President Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development.
     Mr. Donovan, a 43-year-old architect with three Harvard degrees, commutes to and from Washington each week, spending the weekend in New York, where his wife, the architect Liza Gilbert, and their two sons, have stayed. On Friday morning, Mr. Donovan gave a significant policy address at New York University’s law school — one of his first as HUD secretary — in which he outlined his plans for the department at a time of severe economic turmoil that was largely brought on by the crisis in the housing market.
     John Sexton, president of New York University, and Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, introduced Mr. Donovan, who was a keynote speaker at a two-day conference, “A Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Transforming America’s Housing Policy,” sponsored by the university’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.
     “I am the eternal optimist, as you know, and finding opportunity in crisis is exactly what we need to be doing right now,” Mr. Donovan began by saying.