U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to Bring Sustainable Communities Message to CNU 18

Cabinet Official Has Articulated Vision for Coordinating Federal Housing and Transportation Policy

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The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is pleased to welcome U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to CNU 18 in Atlanta, where he will keynote a May 21 plenary session.

A key cabinet member in the Obama Administration's response to a deep recession defined by high mortgage defaults and housing foreclosure rates, Donovan has worked to stabilize and revive housing markets. While managing urgent issues such as the future of mortgage enterprise Fannie Mae and deploying high-profile tools such as home-buyer tax credits, Donovan has articulated an impressive vision for long-term policy reform at HUD.

With the secretaries of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Donovan has established the interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which works to better coordinate federal transportation and housing investments to give Americans more choices for affordable housing near employment opportunities; more transportation options, to lower transportation costs, shorten travel times, and improve the environment; and healthier, safer, livable communities.

In its six guiding Livability Principles that echo tenets of the New Urbanism and smart growth movements, the partnership recognizes that the federal government and U.S. households fail to get true value from federal investments in transportation and housing when those investments are considered apart from each other and with little regard for the community form that results. Continued highway expansion, for example, leads people to purchase housing on the sparsely settled far edge of metropolitan areas, leaving them vulnerable to the high costs and lost hours of long automobile commutes.

“One of the things about the foreclosure crisis is that the places with the most foreclosures are communities that are far from jobs. We need to invest in making communities more sustainable,” Donovan recently told the website Who Runs Gov. In announcing the Sustainable Communities Partnership in 2009 alongside Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Donovan said, "This partnership will help expand every American family's choices for affordable housing and transportation. HUD's central mission — ensuring that every American has access to decent, affordable housing — can be achieved only in context of the housing, transportation, and energy costs and choices that American families experience each day."

Given the Partnership's emphasis on better coordinating housing and transportation in livable communities, Donovan is an ideal speaker for the 18th Congress for the New Urbanism — CNU 18 "New Urbanism: Rx for Healthy Places" — which in being co-organized by CNU and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brings together two leading authorities involved in improving community design and community health. "Secretary Donovan has shown an impressive commitment to expanding housing opportunities in neighborhoods that are affordable, diverse, connected and livable," says CNU CEO John Norquist. "He is an ideal speaker for this conference with its historic alignment of professionals and policy makers dedicated to making communities more healthy and economically vital."

Norquist noted that the last sitting HUD Secretary to attend a CNU Congress was Sec. Henry Cisneros in Charleston in 1996, during an earlier period of reform at HUD when investments in improved housing leveraged efforts to revitalize neighborhoods and better connect residents to economic opportunity. Specifically, CNU leaders including current board chair Ray Gindroz and co-founder Dan Solomon worked with HUD officials to create design guidelines for the Hope VI program, which transformed deteriorated public housing in isolated towers and barracks into revitalized city neighborhoods with new highly connected and walkable streets and blocks serving as the setting for new mixed-income townhouses, apartment buildings, schools and community centers. Donovan has said the Administration's new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative will provide competitive grants to assist in the transformation, rehabilitation, and preservation of HUD public and assisted housing, building on and improving on the Hope VI program.

In another example of a key Sustainable Communities initiative at HUD, Donovan is overseeing administration of a $150 million 2010 appropriation to support regional planning efforts that integrate housing and transportation decisions and increase the capacity to improve land use and zoning. Additionally, which benefitted from design guidance from CNU leaders such as Ray Gindroz and Dan Solomon.

Before joining the Obama cabinet, Donovan served as Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development in New York City and helped create the largest municipal affordable housing plan in the nation. Donovan also served as a senior official at HUD during the Clinton Administration. Also representing HUD at CNU 18 will be Shelley Poticha, HUD Senior Adviser for Sustainable Housing and Communities, who formerly served as co-chair of Transportation for America and executive director of CNU.