Shaun Donovan can do housing. Can he do politics?

Mayoral candidate is overqualified on real estate issues but has never run for office

New York /
Feb.February 03, 2021 08:00 AM

Say this for Shaun Donovan: If he succeeds in his bid to become mayor of New York City, he would never need aides to explain terms like AMI, MIH and FAR.

Housing jargon has been second nature to Donovan, 55, for his entire career, as he noted in a Zoom interview with The Real Deal last week. Donovan was commissioner of the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama.

Whoever becomes the city’s next chief executive will need to understand such terms to make a dent in its seemingly endless housing crisis.

Less certain is whether knowing those acronyms (in case you’re wondering: area median income, mandatory inclusionary housing and floor-area ratio) will help him win the election, which figures to be decided in June’s Democratic primary.

Voters tend to be won over by soaring rhetoric and catchy slogans, such as City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s pledge to replace the “gentrification industrial complex” with “universal affordable housing.”

In his virtual sit-down with TRD, Donovan pointed out that crafting an effective housing policy is pointless if you can’t execute it, a task that requires political talent as much as policy expertise. He said he could build the coalitions and public support needed to implement his plan, which he said would soon be released in detail.

He did give away one major component in his interview, saying inclusionary housing should be citywide rather than depend on rezoning one neighborhood at a time — a de Blasio administration strategy that failed when minority members of the City Council decided it would displace their constituents, despite being designed to do the opposite.





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