HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan’s father and stepmother were in attendance today as he offered the luncheon remarks for the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2010 Annual Housing Policy Conference and he echoed an ethos at HUD that is ambitious, but one that is important to repeat over and over again as advocates, housers, and practitioners descended on DC’s L’Enfant Plaza for this annual gathering.
Donavan recalled that in 1991, he spent the summer with classmates retracing the Freedom Ride on its 30th anniversary, replicating the 1961 route taken by Civil Rights activists on mass transit routes throughout the South. Following that, he helped build homes for descendants of many of the slaves who had worked the apple orchards in Nelson County, Va.
“They were living without plumbing, on dirt floors, in some of the most horrendous living conditions that I, having grown up in New York City, had ever seen in my life. It was, for me, that connection, between the legacy of Civil Rights and the history of fighting for justice with what housing and community development could mean in today’s world in the lives of the people we all care about that has led to where I am today — fully committed to housing as a path to opportunity and justice in this country.”
Donovan went on to discuss some of HUD’s challenges and accomplishments over the last 15 months, and while we’ve become accustomed with this administration framing policy with high ideals and goals characteristic of civilized nations, at HUD, an agency that has often failed to live up to its mission under previous administrations, the mission has never been more clear.