Saturday, December 13, 2008

Donovan and HUD

Two people have asked me to post some rocky shots and/or news, which I promise to do very soon. Here's a teaser for the moment though -- Rock in his favorite position, destroying my sofa cushion. God I love that dog. A friend was kind enough to volunteer to take him for nearly two weeks while Jake and I head to Minneapolis and then Wisconsin for the holiday. This means baking for her and her parents! I haven't decided what to do yet. So more on that in the next week or so.

I woke up this morning with a mild hangover from a birthday party with just enough time to make it to a class at the gym. I made it through bootcamp -- I think Madelyn took it easy on us. Or maybe it was all the carbs from the beer and the leftover cheesecake I had when we got home. That stuff really does get better after a few days. There was leftover carrot pumpkin bread for breakfast, which also held up really well.

I came home and saw that Shaun Donovan, the very smart head of NYC's Housing Development Commission, was named to head up HUD. It's not a surprise and definitely a relief. There seemed to be some politic-ing going on, with a short list of Latino names floated in the press. Not than any were bad, exactly, but Donovan is an obvious choice.

The thing that baffles me is that it was announced at 6AM eastern time, on a Saturday, on the radio. Huh? Politico writes it up as a "use of new media to make news," but it seems like a use of old media for boring news. Or maybe trying to minimize the appointment, in light of the fact that Latinos are not feeling the love from Obama right now?

I shouldn't be surprised that people care less about HUD than about the economy or defense -- but come on, now, let us see the guy shaking Obama's hand in front of a flag, at least. The NY Times home page, by the time I got to it, has the appointment story as a link underneath an unrelated story. We're also still waiting to hear what the deal will be for an urban affairs czar-type person or agency. I know that very good, very committed people are thinking about housing and urban issues on the transition team, which is really exciting. Nevertheless, it would be great to know a bit more about what direction it is taking. The Donovan appointment is pretty great news for housing policy wonks, though, particularly NYC housing policy wonks. He clearly knows what it takes to get housing built and to run programs, is innovative, and values research as a tool. From what I've seen working for a housing authority this past year, what the HUD-funded program world needs even more than innovation is some serious relationship-building with HUD itself. The current tone is one of mutual mistrust and perceived incompetence. The perception is probably real in some instances and places, but there has to be a better way.

As an aside, the Times mentions Donovan championing inclusionary zoning. My ex-boss Frank Braconi, now the chief economist for the NYC Comptroller, had a nice profile in the Times this week, was among the first to really push for inclusionary zoning -- arguing basically that it was a good political tool to gain consensus for rezoning (then just starting to roll out for Atlantic Yards, Far West Side, Greenpoint, etc.), and a nice way to add affordable units to already-dense development. He was at odds with City Planning over it, but it eventually caught on. I wrote the policy brief on it for him many moons ago, and then I think it cost me a job I interviewed for at City Planning that year (truth be told I was definitely on the under-qualified side at that point). Seattle is going through inclusionary zoning debates now, and i haven't been tracking at all, but it seems like some of the same issues (on-site vs. off site inclusionary units?; buy-outs into a fund as opposed to hard unit production?). Good stuff.

Ok, I've gone on too long, and need to get in the shower to go to coffee with a friend from grad school who has moved to back to Seattle, her home town. I had some mini-epiphanies yesterday on dissertation stuff that I think moved the logjam on the research questions issues. More on that than you probably care to hear some other time.


  1. Atlantic Yards is not inclusionary zoning.

  2. Thanks for reading! I'll take your word for it. Just noting that IZ popped up as an issue right about when the big re-zoning projects started to percolate, and new tools were needed to help them go over easier.

  3. Atlantic Yards is a privately negotiated affordable housing bonus coupled with a state override of city zoning, thus allowing the developer to decide the scale of the project, with partner ACORN contractually obligated to support the project.

  4. Martha,
    Just took another admiring look at The Rock, and noticed that his tail is almost completely uncurled. Somewhere I heard (maybe from your Mom) that a curly tail means that a pug is happy. If so, what does an uncurly tail mean? Rocky looks pretty content in that photo, so it's hard to imagine that he's unhappy snoozing on your couch.
    Information, please!