U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan recently gave a speech in New York in which he spoke of a “new direction in housing.” If there’s one constant with cabinet secretaries, it’s that they all promise that their department will be new and improved. The following are a few of Donovan’s lines that deserve comment.
The Federal Housing Administration is providing another critical bridge to economic stability…And with nearly half of first-time buyers using FHA loans, it is clear that the FHA has been central to recovery.
In crisis comes enormous opportunity for change – as Rahm Emanuel says, ‘a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.’ Ensuring we don’t starts with getting the government back into the business of building and preserving affordable housing. Homeownership is incredibly important. But if this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that it is long past time we had a balanced, comprehensive national housing policy – one that supports homeownership, but also provides affordable rental opportunities, and ensures nobody falls through the cracks.
This crisis has illustrated that only the Federal government has the scale and mechanisms to deal effectively with some of the forces that caused it.
The Federal government can be a key partner in helping communities foster the kinds of synergies between housing, education, public safety, and health you’ve helped nurture at the neighborhood level.
In my recent paper on three decades of scandals, mismanagement, and policy failures at HUD, I show that little has changed at HUD other than the individuals occupying the throne. The history of Shaun Donovan’s tenure is yet to be written, but his speech makes me pessimistic.