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Jan. 24: On HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan's birthday, looking at housing inequality

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Housing and Urban Development head Shaun Donovan turns 48 today.

Donovan assumed his post in January 2009—just two days after his birthday—after working for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, as acting FHA commissioner and on President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Shaun Donovan

He oversees HUD in its mission to provide sustainable, quality, affordable housing for everyone. The department is also tasked with dismantling housing discrimination. To that end, Donovan participated in a chat hosted by Zillow about equality in housing this week, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.

Zillow released a report showing that blacks and Hispanics are less likely to apply for a mortgage, be approved for a mortgage or own a home, and face more home value depreciation than whites.

According to the report, 73.9 percent of whites own a home, whereas 60.9 percent of Asians, 50.9 percent of Hispanics and 46.5 percent of blacks own. The housing crisis also disproportionately affected black and Hispanic homeowners.

“Hispanics saw the biggest decline in homeownership but have seen a bigger increase than blacks, who have not seen that kind of increase,” Donovan said during the chat Wednesday.

Down payment assistance is key to access, he said.

He also said that a new program announced by President Obama called Promise Zones could help increase homeownership and access to opportunity. In certain designated areas, the federal government will partner with local communities and businesses to create jobs, improve transportation, expand education, increase access to affordable housing and improve public safety.

Donovan believes the program could really create a more even playing field for minorities, and improve access to better housing.

Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated real estate columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, and managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Glink.

On This Day, previously:

Nov. 25: The only house that JFK and Jackie ever built
Nov. 21: The lowest mortgage rate ever
Nov. 1: On this day in 1800, the White House became a home
Oct. 9: Secrets of the Washington Monument, which opened to the public 125 years ago
Sept. 18: Greenspan acknowledges housing bubble in 2007 interview

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