President-elect Barack Obama on Saturday named Shaun Donovan, a long-time champion of affordable housing, as his choice for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  

Donovan, a former HUD deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing in the Clinton years, will come to his new post from New York City, where he serves in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration. He is currently Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, where he has been responsible for leading the effort to build and preserve 165,000 affordable housing units for 500,000 New Yorkers. He was under discussion by many, although as a long shot, for the job.

"With experience that stretches from the public sector to the private sector to academia, Shaun will bring to this important post fresh thinking, unencumbered by old ideology and outdated ideas," Obama said during his weekly radio address during which he announced Donovan's appointment. "He understands that we need to move past the stale arguments that say low-income Americans shouldn’t even try to own a home or that our mortgage crisis is due solely to a few greedy lenders. He knows that we can put the dream of owning a home within reach for more families, so long as we’re making loans in the right way, and so long as those who buy a home are prepared for the responsibilities of homeownership."

The National Low Income Housing Coalition applauded the selection.

“Shaun Donovan is brilliant choice for HUD. He is an expert on the full range of housing issues and has a proven track record of getting things done,” Sheila Crowley, NLIHC's president, said in a statement. “And he enjoys high regard across the spectrum of housing interests, from low income housing and homeless advocates, public officials, developers, and financiers alike.”

Donovan has worked in several other housing-related positions, including managing director of FHA lending and affordable housing investments at Prudential Mortgage Capital Company and a post at the Community Preservation Corp., a New York-based nonprofit lender and affordable housing developer. He also holds master's degrees in architecture and public administration, a point noted in Saturday's announcement. "Trained as an architect, Shaun understands housing down to how homes are designed, built, and wired," Obama said.

The president-elect also acknowledged the importance of housing in the larger economy during his weekly address. "In the end, expanding access to affordable housing isn’t just about caring for the least fortunate among us and strengthening our middle class--it’s about ending our housing mess, climbing out of our financial crisis, and putting our economy on the path to long-term growth and prosperity. And that is what Shaun and I will work to do together when I am President of the United States."

Claire Koltko is associate editor, copy, for BUILDER magazine. Alison Rice also contributed reporting to this story.

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