HUD Prepared Remarks on Future of Housing After the Crisis

On January 22, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released remarks of HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, as prepared for delivery.

Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at Congressman Denny Heck’s Conference: “The Future of Housing After the Crisis”

As prepared for delivery

Thank you very much, Congressman Heck, for that generous introduction.  And thank you for your contributions to the 10th District and the entire nation.

In particular, I appreciate your leadership with the HECM bill, allowing HUD to make important reforms to this program, while continuing to help seniors age in place with comfort and dignity.
And I am deeply grateful that you invited me to be here today.

I always love coming to Washington, and during this visit, there is a special excitement in the air.
Now, I am under no illusion that it’s because the HUD Secretary is here.  I know that all this joy is because the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl.

To all you fans, congratulations on this milestone accomplishment.  They made quite a comeback against the 49ers on Sunday.  So I can’t think of a better place to talk about the housing market’s comeback and future than right here in Washington.

The Progress We’ve Made

It’s an important discussion to have because homes are the foundation of our lives and where we raise our families.  Homes are at the center of healthy and thriving communities.

Owning a home helps families build wealth, start businesses and put their kids through college.
In short, home is critical to every aspect of our lives which is why we’ve got to ensure our housing market is healthy and provides opportunity to all responsible families.

Now, of course, this work hasn’t been easy in recent times.  Just a few years ago, our nation endured a once-in-a-lifetime crisis that devastated Americans across the nation.  When President Obama took office in 2009, the housing market was in free-fall.

Home prices had fallen nearly 20 percent from the year before – the largest one-year drop ever measured.  Roughly three million borrowers were seriously delinquent.  Construction projects and plans came to a halt, causing the industry to lose 100,000 jobs a month.

And of course, these drops represented more than shifting numbers on a spreadsheet.  They represented people’s lives, savings and struggles.  So as soon as the President and I took office, we took action to stabilize the market and help those in need.

We helped nearly 8 million families modify their mortgages. We allocated $7 billion to communities in all 50 states through our Neighborhood Stabilization Program to address foreclosed and abandoned properties.  And during the most trying times, the Federal Housing Administration stepped up to keep capital flowing and stabilize the market.

As a result of these and other efforts, the market is healing.  From the beginning of 2012 to the third quarter of last year, the number of underwater borrowers fell by nearly half, lifting 5.7 million homeowners above water.  During that same period, homeowners have seen $3.4 trillion in home equity restored.  And, home prices continue to rise.

Bottom line: progress is happening.  But as all of us know, there is still more work to do.
Access to credit for responsible families is still too limited.  Underwater borrowers are still too common.

That’s why the Administration is committed to accelerating the housing market recovery in a number of ways.

Accelerating Our Progress

First, we are empowering families with the tools they need to succeed in today’s housing market.
I don’t have to tell you that housing can be a complex and overwhelming source of frustration for families.

As we all know, a significant cause of the crisis was that many buyers simply didn’t know what they were getting into.  That’s why, in the last four years, HUD-approved housing counselors have worked with more than nine million families, both in the pre-purchase and post-purchase phases.

By giving borrowers access to reliable and unbiased information, they will make better decisions and the entire market will benefit.

Another focus of ours is making it easier for single-family lenders to get quality products to those ready to buy.  Right now, one of the major obstacles blocking a full housing recovery is regulatory uncertainty.

And I understand.  The federal government has taken a lot of steps that were, in my view, necessary to restore confidence.  But one of the outcomes was that, too often, the rules of the road weren’t clear enough and that led to a tightening of credit.

According to the Federal Reserve, from 2007 to 2012, mortgage lending to borrowers with credit scores over 780 fell by a third.  Loans to those with scores between 620 and 680 fell 90%.

So my colleagues and I have been working with a wide-variety of stakeholders, including many of you, to simplify things moving forward.  Case in point is the qualified residential mortgage rule, which we finalized last month. 

It’s the result of six federal agencies, including HUD, coming together to make QRM equal to QM in order to simplify the mortgage origination process.  This is a direct result of the feedback we’ve received since the first proposal in 2011.

Now our rule avoids greater complexity, and overly restrictive down payment requirements that could serve only to exclude creditworthy borrowers.  Some of our critics have called this a dilution of our rule.  But as you know, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s QM rule itself is a very strong measure.  And we are confident that this will find the right balance between responsibility and opportunity moving forward.

I thank you for your engagement on this issue.  We very much look forward to continuing to listen to stakeholders like you so we get these conditions right for the single-family market.

We are also committed to doing the same with the multi-family community.  I’ve made it a priority to make it easier to do business with HUD so that we can put an end to unnecessary delays on the ground.

Case in point is our Low Income Housing Tax Credit Pilot Program. As you all know, in the past, investors using the Low Income Housing Tax Credit who wanted to access FHA financing had to follow an approval process that sometimes took a year or more.

Not only did that stall important affordable housing projects, it scared off other potential partners from trying in the first place. To address this challenge, we launched the pilot program last year and are seeing tremendous results.

Deals are taking an average of only 86 days from receipt of the complete application to closing.
And we are proud to be seeing these kinds of gains in a number of our initiatives.  That’s why we’re committed to expanding this work with efforts like the transformation of our Multifamily Housing Office.

To compliment this work, the Administration continues to fight for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. All of us here know how important the LIHTC has been in generating multi-family activity.

That’s why the President and I have championed it time and again, most recently, calling on Congress to continue to support this tool as part of his housing plan announced last August.
And I urge you to continue to do the same by letting Congress know that not only do we need to keep the LIHTC, we need to expand it in order to better address the needs out there and provide more flexibility for the credit.

Together, all these steps will go a long way in accelerating our housing market’s growth.
And we want to make sure that this housing succeeds by working with public and private partners to improve surrounding community assets.

No housing can thrive if its residents don’t have access to things like good jobs, quality schools and reliable transit options. That’s why the Obama Administration has joined with local leaders to take a comprehensive approach to development.

At the community level, HUD launched the Choice Neighborhoods initiative, a competitive program that gives local leaders the flexibility to transform their neighborhoods in their own unique way.

Building off the HOPE VI public housing revitalization program, Choice expands the activities that resources can be targeted towards to include not just all forms of housing, but also neighborhood amenities.

This work is making a profound difference in communities like Yesler Terrace.  In 2011, Seattle was one of the first five cities to be awarded Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant dollars – in total, receiving nearly $30 million.

Yesterday, I had the chance to visit Yesler Terrace and see up close the profound changes underway.  The Housing Authority is overseeing the development of thousands of new, mixed-development homes.  Seattle University is providing educational support services to help young people.

And a wide-variety of partners are coming together to link the community with surrounding neighborhoods by creating paths for pedestrians to connect with the Little Saigon business district located just down the hill from Yesler Terrace …as well as to maximize the impact of the new street car rail line that will run through the neighborhood, better connecting residents to downtown and the medical district.

In total, the partnerships created through Choice Neighborhoods are driving change and expanding opportunity.  And at a time of tough budget choices, grantees are leveraging $8 for every $1 Choice Neighborhood brings, generating incredible outcomes at the community level.

At the regional level, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is doing the same.
HUD has joined with the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make entire regions more economically competitive.

The 143 planning grants we have awarded include 5 grantees from the state of Washington – representing an investment of nearly $12 million.

One example is Puget Sound Regional Council’s “Growing Transit Communities” plan to locate housing, jobs and services close to transit options so that everyone has access to opportunity.
Another example is Thurston County which has an ambitious plan to revitalize the Capitol-Martin Corridor.

In total, our grants are touching and improving the lives of nearly half the U.S. population in a number of profound and innovative ways. This kind of work is ensuring that communities have all the support they need to grow.

But we can’t be satisfied by these results.  After all, if the housing market were to collapse again, it would undermine all these efforts.

That is why we’ve got to ensure that a crisis of the magnitude we just saw never happens again by reforming our housing finance system.

Please click here to view the remarks in their entirety.

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders,  and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally. Website:



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.