Obama taps NYC's Donovan as housing secretary
AFP - 2 hours 58 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - US president-elect Barack Obama on Saturday tapped Shaun Donovan for secretary of housing and urban development, taking another step in the formation of his future cabinet.
Donovan, currently the New York City Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development, is an architect who previously served in the Housing Department under former president Bill Clinton.
He "will bring to this important post fresh thinking, unencumbered by old ideology and outdated ideas," Obama said in his weekly radio address.
As Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development in New York, he helped create the largest municipal affordable housing plan in the country.
"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," Obama said.
"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," added the president-elect.
Widely seen as an expert on affordable housing, Donovan, 42, served at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) during the Clinton administration as acting federal housing commissioner and deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing.
If Donovan is confirmed by the Senate, he would join the cabinet at a time when the prolonged slump in the real-estate sector is deepening due to the credit squeeze.
US officials say that correcting the economy's current downturn requires a recovery in the huge housing market, which began to founder in mid-2006.
Construction starts on new US homes and housing building permits fell to record lows in October, dropping 4.5 percent to an annualized rate of 791,000 units, the Commerce Department said.
That marked the lowest level since it began publishing the data in January 1959.
On a 12-month basis housing starts were down a whopping 38.8 percent despite government efforts to revive credit flows and stem a rising tide of foreclosures.
Obama noted that one in 10 American families who owns a home is now in some form of distress and called this situation "deeply troubling."
"It not only shakes the foundation of our economy, but the foundation of the American dream," he said. "There is nothing more fundamental than having a home to call your own."
The president-elect stressed his administration will need to approach the old challenge of affordable housing "with new energy, new ideas, and a new, efficient style of leadership."
Obama has also has already asked former first lady Hillary Clinton to serve as secretary of state and longtime Democratic ally Tom Daschle to serve as secretary of health and human services.
New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who like Clinton also sought the Democratic nod for the presidency, has been named commerce secretary while Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been asked to stay on.
Obama will take office on January 20, 2009.
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A house under construction in Miami, Florida. US president-elect Barack Obama on Saturday tapped Shaun Donovan for secretary of housing and urban development, taking another step in the formation of his future cabinet.
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