07/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

HUD Secretary Demands 'Right Kind of Ownership'

With the prospect of sunnier days ahead, Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said failure could breed a nation of cynics in an exclusive interview with Scoop44.

In a change of tone from the Bush years, Donovan wants Americans to "get back to the basics," in terms of measuring "successful housing outcomes for families."

"It's not about ownership," he said, "It's about the right kind of ownership."

"We want to encourage responsible leasing as well as ownership."

Last month was just another ordinary one in the life of President Obama's federal agencies: more announcements of increased funding for stimulus projects.

In May Housing and Urban Development Secretary Donovan announced that HUD will "offer nearly $1 billion to make substantial improvements to thousands of public housing units nationwide"

These "Public Housing Capital Funds" are intended to be stimulative funds to create jobs as well as improve housing and enhance energy efficiency.

As the month waned, President Obama signed into law the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, which increases funding for public housing across the nation.

A senior HUD official said the legislation will "expand the reach of the Administration's Making Home Affordable Programs, improve the Federal Housing Administration's Hope for Homeowners program and streamline how HUD supports thousands of homeless support programs across America."

"While there's tremendous opportunity, there's also incredible risk," warned Donovan.

Donovan said his challenge is to identify and give "a sense of stability" potentially vulnerable families on the edge of foreclosure.

While the economic crisis has sparked fear of urban failure across the America, one Donovan described to students in a commencement speech at the New York University's Wagner School of Public Service, he said, "There are early signs that we're moving in the right direction."

"In the 1970s, New York City was widely viewed as the epitome of urban failure. The Bronx burning on the city skyline was just one of the many visible signs that government institutions and urban programs were failing. People were asking if our cities were dead, and American families moved out of urban cores to the suburbs in record numbers."

"The President has engaged a new generation in public service. My mission is broader than just housing. National service is more important than it's been in a generation," he told Scoop44.

In his address, he said public service could be no more critical in "crises like the economic one our country currently faces."

"Will you turn away from the problems plaguing our cities and our nation?," Donovan asked graduates, "Or will you listen to President Obama's call to public service during this time of great national need? The choice is yours, but I know that together we can put our shoulders up against the wheel and change the course of history."

This interview with Secretary Shaun Donovan is cross-posted at Scoop44.