HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 09-046
Jereon Brown
(202) 708-0685
For Release
May 5, 2009


WASHINGTON - Helen Kanovsky, Peter Kovar and John Trasviña were sworn in Monday as the General Counsel, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, respectively at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. All three were unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 1, 2009.

[Photo 1: Secretary Donovan swears in Helen Kanovsky as HUD's General Counsel.]
Secretary Donovan swears in Helen Kanovsky as HUD'S General Counsel.

"I am elated to have these talented individuals onboard," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "Each of them plays a critical role in our goal of building a dynamic, collaborative housing team that will better position HUD to help the nation overcome the tremendous housing challenges we currently face."

Prior to serving as HUD's General Counsel, Kanovsky, held the positions of Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust. In the late 90's, she was chief of staff to U.S. Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts. Earlier in her career, she served as a Special Assistant to HUD Secretary Patricia Harris. Kanovsky holds a Bachelor's Degree in Government from Cornell University and Juris Doctor Degree from the Harvard Law School.

"This is an exciting opportunity to work with Secretary Donovan in carrying out the Obama Administration's ambitious housing goals," Kanovsky said. "HUD has a massive job to do in helping families affected by the housing crisis. I am honored to participate in this national effort to help families and individuals through these troubled times. I am joining a team that is committed to expanding affordable housing opportunities for all Americans."

Kovar, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, was formerly the chief of staff for Congressman Barney Frank, Chairman of the Financial Services Committee. During his 26-year tenure on Capitol Hill, Kovar worked on virtually every issue that comes before Congress, including such diverse issues as immigration policy, Medicare reform, environmental protection, government ethics, and economic development. For the past six years, Kovar also played a key role in coordinating the interaction between Representative Frank's Congressional office and the work of the House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal housing policy.

"I anticipate building strong relationships throughout Congress, to advance the important housing goals that have been articulated by President Obama and Secretary Donovan" said Kovar. "I became involved in government largely out of a desire to provide help to those who are economically disadvantaged, and I believe I can make valuable contributions in that area through my new position at HUD."

As Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Trasviña joins HUD after serving as President and General Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in Los Angeles, California.

"The principles of fair housing often have the greatest impact on our nation's children," said Trasviña. "If left ignored, the pain and shame of a parent whose family is denied an apartment or home because of race, religion, national origin or disability is felt by a child for a lifetime. As the Obama Administration works to provide stability to home ownership, I am honored to lead the Office of Fair Housing Equal Opportunity."

[Photo 2: Secretary Donovan swears in John Trasviña as the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.]
Secretary Donovan swears in John Trasviña as the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

In 1985, Trasviña began his career at MALDEF in Washington, D.C. as a legislative attorney. He later worked for U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois as General Counsel and Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Trasviña as Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices. As Special Counsel, he led the only federal government office devoted solely to immigrant workplace rights.

Trasviña was the highest ranking Latino attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. After returning to California, he taught immigration law at Stanford Law School.

A native of San Francisco, Trasvina received his Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, from Harvard University and earned his Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School. "He recently chaired the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, the umbrella organization of 28 national Latino organizations. In 2008, he received the President's Award from the Pasadena NAACP. Previously, he was named to Hispanic Business Magazine's list of the 100 most influential Hispanics in America and received the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership's Distinguished Service Award."


HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at and You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDnews, on facebook at, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.


Content Archived: April 2, 2015