Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Gala Honoree Spotlight: Shaun Donovan

by Andrea Nesby, National Housing Conference

In city and federal government and across multiple presidential administrations, Shaun Donovan has left a lasting, positive impact on housing policy that will be recognized for generations to come. 

“Shaun’s remarkable intelligence, vision with an unrelenting focus on results, combined with his political acumen and passion for public service are simply unparalleled,” says Carol Galante, a professor in affordable housing and urban policy at the University of California Berkeley (USC) and faculty director of USC’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. “He cares deeply for the people and communities he served.”

Donovan’s career as a public servant began in 1998 as a deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing at HUD during the Clinton administration. In this role, Donovan spearheaded the “Mark Up to Market” program, cutting project-based Section 8 opt-outs in half in just two years. Donovan also served as acting FHA commissioner during the transition from President Clinton to President George W. Bush. Following his time at FHA, Donovan took on roles in the private sector, and worked as a consultant to the Millennial Housing Commission, which was created by Congress to establish strategies to expand housing opportunities.

He returned to public service in 2004, becoming commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Tasked by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg with rolling out an ambitious housing strategy, Donovan created and implemented the New Housing Marketplace Plan to build and preserve 165,000 affordable housing units, the largest municipal affordable housing plan in the nation's history.

John Kelly, a partner at Nixon Peabody, served as director at HPD and recalls Donovan’s drive and expertise.  

“Shaun brought his knowledge of HUD from his first term as deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing to HPD, as he understood how federal policy affected the city’s housing programs and how to best work with HUD to accomplish the city’s goals,” shares Kelly. “He has an academic’s thoughtfulness in approach to addressing housing needs, but a pragmatist’s focus on getting the work accomplished.”

In 2009, Donovan returned to HUD under President Obama as the fifteenth Secretary of HUD, becoming the second-longest serving secretary of HUD. As secretary, he led negotiations on the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement, co-created the National Disaster Recovery Framework to rebuild stronger and smarter after natural disasters and championed the Housing First model of supportive housing, which has been adopted by many organizations working to end homelessness.

“No one is more deserving of the Coan Award than Shaun Donovan, who throughout his career has been committed to solving what is arguably the most serious housing problem: homelessness,” says Nan Roman, executive director of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Because of his leadership and commitment, and despite the headwinds of rising housing costs, investments increased and homelessness decreased while he was Secretary of HUD and OMB director.  And I know he will not be satisfied until everyone has a home they can afford, and no one is homeless.”

Donovan was appointed director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 2014, where he served for two-and-a-half years. At OMB, Donovan focused on using technology to produce a more effective government, modernizing citizen-facing services and leading efforts to shape the regulatory system into one that protects Americans while promoting economic growth.

For his unwavering commitment on both local and federal level to creating and preserving affordable housing, NHC is pleased to honor Shaun Donovan with the 2017 Carl Coan, Sr., Award for Public Service. We join with our members in looking forward to what is certain to be many more years of service to housing and to the nation.

NHC established the award in 1984 to honor Carl A.S. Coan, Sr., for his leadership on housing and community development legislation during his professional career. NHC continues to honor Mr. Coan’s legacy by presenting the award to those who demonstrate exceptional commitment to affordable housing. 

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