What’s up at HUD?

June 9, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Posted in Department of Housing & Urban Development | Leave a comment
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Housing conditions in the settlement of workers in Alabama Canning Co. Two families to a house, but they are separated. Housing conditions fairly good. Location: Bayou La Batre, Alabama.  1911 February.   Lewis Wickes Hine, photographer.

Housing conditions in the settlement of workers in Alabama Canning Co. Two families to a house, but they are separated. Housing conditions fairly good. Location: Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 1911 February. Lewis Wickes Hine, photographer.

What’s Shaun Donovan, the Secretary for Housing & Urban Development, up to?

In mid April the LA Times reported statements by Secretary Donovan about energy-efficient housing:

(LATimes) Donovan said his agency was in the early stages of discussions with federal energy officials to develop “a relatively simple scoring system for housing that would allow you to understand what you’re buying and at the same time allow lenders to factor that into their mortgage. Ultimately, if your energy bills are going to be lower, there ought to be some [mortgage] benefits to that.”

The system might also factor in transportation costs to employment centers in some way, he said, because “most people don’t realize that the average American family spends over 50% of their income on a combination of housing and transportation.” Even with far-flung suburbs’ lower prices for houses, “their transportation costs are huge” — and metropolitan sprawl itself represents a massive energy-consumption inefficiency.

It sounds as though Secretary Donovan is working hard on behalf of his employers, the American people:

(Economist) A “Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan” announced in February, aims to help 7m-9m homeowners stay in their homes. On May 12th it announced that a $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers could be used as down-payment on a mortgage from the FHA. Earlier this month, HUD said it would provide $2 billion in stimulus funds to stabilise neighbourhoods hit by foreclosure. More than any other HUD secretary, Mr Donovan is sitting “at the table” with the president and Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary.

[snip]

Even as he battles the housing crisis, Mr Donovan is setting an agenda, one not seen in decades. He wants HUD to be more than the department of subsidised housing, and hopes to focus too on the urban development side. A big fan of statistics, he looked at foreclosure patterns and observed that neighbourhoods with the highest rates were in the least sustainable places, in isolated suburbs and older urban areas far away from jobs and schools. This suggests that the recession may shake out and slim down cities, making them eventually better places to live.

Mr Donovan is already collaborating with Arne Duncan, the education secretary, and the heads of the Departments of Energy and Transport, as well as Mr Geithner. He is keenly aware that HUD is not just for cities—that traditional “urban problems”, such as poverty and affordable housing, are now regional problems. Conversely, he is aware that urban development is also about better transport links and better schools. It all hangs together.

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What’s Shaun Donovan up to?

May 5, 2009 at 10:33 am | Posted in Department of Housing & Urban Development | Leave a comment
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New home of FSA (Farm Security Administration) tenant purchase borrower. Crawford County, Illinois.  May 1940.

New home of FSA (Farm Security Administration) tenant purchase borrower. Crawford County, Illinois. May 1940.

He’s hard at work:

(LATimes) The Obama administration’s top housing official — Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development — thinks consumers deserve more information on the energy efficiency of the houses they buy, both resale and newly built. And he thinks mortgages should come with lower rates or better terms to encourage purchases and retrofits that save energy.

Go read the whole thing.

Secretary of Housing & Urban Development

December 14, 2008 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Department of Housing & Urban Development | 3 Comments
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Shaun Donovan, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) since March 2004, was confirmed by the Senate on January 23, 2009 as Secretary of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).

HUD’s mission is to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination.

Block of slum houses with outside toilets and water supply, Washington, D.C.  July 1935

Block of slum houses with outside toilets and water supply, Washington, D.C. July 1935

Through the combined efforts of President Franklin Roosevelt, Catherine Bauer, Mary Simkhovitch and other Progressive reformers, the Housing Act of 1937 was passed, creating the United States Housing Administration.

Work starts on Swanson House, USHA (U.S. Housing Administration)-financed defense housing project, Virginia.  July 1941

Work starts on Swanson House, USHA (U.S. Housing Administration)-financed defense housing project, Virginia. July 1941

Stiff opposition continued even after its passage. In 1939 the National Association of Real Estate Boards newsletter opined, “United States Housing Authority projects now underway are undiluted socialism…”

There is plenty of fresh air and sunlight for the workers children in the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts.  September 1941

There is plenty of fresh air and sunlight for the workers' children in the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts. September 1941

The Lanham Act of 1940 amended the Housing Act of 1937 in part to fund development of housing for low-income rural residents migrating to the cities to take defense industry factory jobs.

Slum housing conditions on the outskirts of a steel mill. Ensley, Alabama.  February 1937

Slum housing conditions on the outskirts of a steel mill. Ensley, Alabama. February 1937

World War II also put pressure on the rural housing markets as a result of expansion of military bases, training areas and defense contractor facilities.  To accommodate this expansion, thousands of American families were relocated off their farms.

Mr. M.B. Kiechle watching his grandson moving out of the area being taken over by Pine Camp expansion. Mr. Kiechles own farm is just outside the boundary line of the area.  August 1941

Mr. M.B. Kiechle watching his grandson moving out of the area being taken over by Pine Camp expansion. Mr. Kiechle's own farm is just outside the boundary line of the area. August 1941

In response to continued opposition of business interests, the Lanham Act required that housing built for the war effort be demolished or sold after the war so it would not compete with .the private housing market.

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts.  September 1941

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts. September 1941

Returning GIs had access to low-interest, no-money-down home loans. The housing shortage caused many communities to abandon the requirement to demolish. Although some of the housing built for the war effort was demolished, some was sold off to returning GIs.

Federal Housing Administration housing. San Diego, California.  May 1941

Federal Housing Administration housing. San Diego, California. May 1941

The Department of Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965 replaced a number of federal housing agencies, including the US Housing Administration, with one new, Cabinet-level agency, HUD.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (also known as the Fair Housing Act or simply the Civil Rights Act) was passed to address some of the failures of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to adequately protect people from discrimination in housing.

Detroit, Michigan. Looking over slum houses. These are conditions under which families originally lived before moving to the Sojourner Truth housing project.  February 1942

Detroit, Michigan. Looking over slum houses. These are conditions under which families originally lived before moving to the Sojourner Truth housing project. February 1942

HUD continues to be a controversial agency impeded in its mission by mismanagement, corruption and opposition to its goals.

HUD urban development in Baltimore, Maryland.  2008

HUD urban development in Baltimore, Maryland. 2008

(Black & white photographs courtesy of The Library of Congress; photograph of HUD housing courtesy of HUD)

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