Miller Center

Shaun Donovan (2009-2014) - Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

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In one of the fastest confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama's cabinet, Shaun Donovan was confirmed on January 22, 2009, as the secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Leaving his post in New York City as the Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Donovan brings extensive experience and background to the position. Donovan was born on January 24, 1966, in New York City. As a child, he was fascinated with design and innovation, a fascination that lead him to develop a hobby for building small model cars. Although he initially dreamed of becoming a car designer, he came to realize that he was interested in architecture. Donovan went on to graduate in 1987 from Harvard University with a degree in architecture. He returned to Harvard as a graduate student, graduating in 1995 with a master's degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government and master's degree in architecture from the Graduate School of Design. After school, he put his architectural talents to work for several years designing and developing several projects in Italy as well as New York City. Donovan quickly demonstrated his capabilities on the national stage during the 1990s as the deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing at HUD in the administration of President Bill Clinton. He was responsible for a multibillion-dollar housing subsidy program that served 1.7 million people. Returning to New York City, Donovan worked in the private sector at Prudential Mortgage Capital. In 2004, he was appointed to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in New York City. In a city with a complicated relationship to urban development, he attempted to balance the many interests of those involved in new developments while trying to build more low- and moderate-income housing in the city. Donovan assumed the position of HUD secretary amidst one of the most challenging periods for the U.S. economy. The United States had already witnessed an unprecedented amount of foreclosures, and many were concerned that stabilizing the battered housing market would be a near impossible task. President Obama remained confident in his selection, however, stating that Donovan will bring "fresh thinking, unencumbered by old ideology and outdated ideas."

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Michael Nelson

Professor Nelson is the Fulmer Professor Political Science at Rhodes College, a senior fellow of the Miller Center, and the senior contributing editor and book editor of the Cook Political Report. He is the author of multiple books on American politics and government, including:

Resilient America: Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government (University Press of Kansas), which won the American Political Science Association’s Richard E. Neustadt Award for Best Book on the Presidency published in 2014

How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation (LSU Press), which won the Southern Political Science Association’s V.O. Key Award for Outstanding Book on Southern Politics published in 2006