Donovan Shaun life and biography

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Donovan Shaun biography

Date of birth : 1966-01-24
Date of death : -
Birthplace : New York, New York, USA
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-05
Credited as : Politician and architect, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Obama administration

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Shaun Donovan (also known as: Shaun L. S. Donovan) born January 24, 1966 in New York, New York, United States is an American politician.

In some ways the natural choice for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Shaun Donovan spent nearly his entire career prior to his appointment working in the creation and preservation of affordable housing, in capacities ranging from the corporate to the nonprofit to the academic to the government sectors. The Harvard-educated architect was appointed to his senior position at HUD in December of 2008 by then President-elect Barack Obama, for whom Donovan tirelessly campaigned.

Born on January 24, 1966, in New York City, Donovan spent his childhood building model cars and dreaming of becoming a car designer. His favorite school subjects were science and math. Donovan went to Harvard University, earning a bachelor's degree in engineering in 1987. He opted to remain at Harvard for graduate school, earning both a master's in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government and a master's in architecture from the Graduate School of Design.

After completing graduate school, Donovan worked in both New York and Italy as an architect, and he spent some time in the nonprofit sector as well, with the Community Housing and Preservation Corporation, an organization which provided development assistance for affordable housing.

Donovan's HUD experience began during the Clinton administration. At that time, he was deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing. The position entailed oversight of a housing subsidy program with a budget in the billions of dollars, serving nearly two million families. In later years of the administration, during the transition to the Bush administration, Donovan was appointed acting federal housing commissioner.

After working in this capacity, he moved on to New York University as a visiting scholar, studying the preservation of government-assisted housing programs. In addition to his studies in the field at NYU, Donovan conducted research at his alma mater, Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. He also served as a consultant to the congressional Millennial Housing Commission, offering expert recommendations on the nationwide creation of affordable housing. After his time at NYU, Donovan moved on to Prudential Mortgage Capital Company, managing affordable housing loans for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Fannie Mae.

In 2004, Donovan was appointed to the position of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) commissioner. In this position, Donovan focused on the creation of affordable housing for both moderate and low income individuals and families, no small task given the politics and economics involved. Programs under his oversight included the New York City Acquisition Fund and the Center for New York City Neighborhoods.

His task under the New Housing Marketplace Plan was to oversee the $7.5 billion budget dedicated to the creation or preservation of 165,000 units for this purpose. These units would collectively house half a million people, and would be the largest affordable housing plan in history.

One strategy used in order to accomplish this goal was that of "inclusionary zoning." Through this policy, developers were allowed to construct multifamily buildings with a greater number of units than allowed otherwise, with the provision that a portion of the developments must be set aside for affordable housing. In fact, during his time at HPD, Donovan continued to work closely with HUD, helping the agency enable residents and nonprofits to take over HUD properties in foreclosure rather than letting the properties go to auction. He also oversaw the creation of a $200 million housing fund to help nonprofits compete in the real estate market.

During the housing boom, Donovan was widely known as a person who could put together loan programs for affordable housing for low and middle income individuals and families. After the housing bust, Donovan worked to limit the damage done to the affordable housing sector. Neither staunchly pro-government nor anti-government in his belief systems, Donovan attempted to work with both free-market and liberal groups and their conflicting ideas about the best possible means to reach the desired end--affordable housing--never waivering from this goal.

He told Janny Scott in a 2006 New York Times article that "I would never believe that the private sector, left to its own devices, is the best possible solution. I'm in government because of the role of government in setting rules and working in partnership with the private sector. On the other hand, there's no way you could ever get to a scale that can really affect the housing problems in this country without working with the market."

Donovan sought and received permission from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a leave of absence from the HPD in 2008 in order to campaign for Barack Obama. Obama's election sealed his fate as the pick for the top spot at HUD, despite the fact that many were calling for a Hispanic candidate. Donovan won out due to his special combination of the skill sets and varied work experience that converged in the right place at the right time.

Further, according to the HUD Web site, "Secretary Donovan believes that America's homes are the foundation for family, safe neighborhoods, good schools, and solid businesses. He has a strong commitment to make quality housing possible for every American."

According to a New York Times article by Jackie Calmes, Barbara Sard, director of housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that Donovan "is brilliant, really thoughtful and creative, and knowledgeable about a broad range of housing policies in ways that unfortunately is very unusual." The mortgage crisis was foremost in the minds of many Americans in the late 2000s as Obama prepared to take office. The top position of HUD was perhaps a more crucial, or at least more urgent-seeming, appointment than it had been in previous administrations. Obama's choice of Donovan, according to Dan McSwain on Obama's campaign Web site,, was due in large part to the fact that Donovan would come with "fresh, bold thinking" and "the innovative ideas and new perspective needed to help thousands of hard-working American families whose livelihoods have been threatened."

Donovan was confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development on January 22, 2009, and was sworn in four days later. As secretary, Donovan's responsibilities center primarily on advising the Obama administration on both continued creation and development of affordable housing and programs to support homeownership in general. Married to Liza Gilbert, a landscape architect, Donovan is father to two sons, Milo and Lucas.


Born January 24, 1966, in New York, NY; married Liza Gilbert (a landscape architect); children: Milo, Lucas. Education: Harvard University, B.S., 1987, M.P.A., 1995, M.A. 1995. Addresses: Office--451 7th Street S.W., Washington, DC 20410.


Architect in New York and Italy; Community Housing and Preservation Corporation; deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 1998-2000; acting federal housing commissioner, HUD, 2000-01; visiting scholar, New York University, 2001-02; managing director, Prudential Mortgage Capital Company, 2002-04; commissioner, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, 2004-08; secretary, HUD, 2009--.

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