Mayor Johnson names housing department leader

Lissette Castañeda to succeed Marisa Novara

Mayor Johnson Taps Lissette Castañeda for Housing Department
Mayor Brandon Johnson and LUCHA's Lissette Castañeda (Getty, Elevated Chicago)

Chicago’s Department of Housing has a new leader who falls in line with Mayor Brandon Johnson’s focus on more affordable housing.

Johnson named Lissette Castañeda as commissioner of the department, succeeding Marisa Novara, the Chicago Tribune reported. Castañeda’s appointment is pending approval from the City Council.

Castañeda is executive director of LUCHA, a nonprofit focused on affordable housing advocacy, counseling and property management in Chicago.

“I firmly believe that housing is a human right,” Mayor Johnson told the outlet. “Lissette has the expertise and the experience to make that right a reality for all Chicagoans. I look forward to working with her to ensure that everyone in our city has access to affordable housing and homeownership opportunities in their communities.”

Novara, who took charge of the Department of Housing under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration in 2019, made significant strides in affordable housing development. She revamped the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance and championed protective measures for residents in gentrifying areas like Woodlawn and Pilsen. Novara recently left her post, leading to Jim Horan’s interim appointment.

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Castañeda’s responsibilities will include refining affordable housing development processes and promoting homeownership in historically disinvested Chicago communities. She called affordable housing the “cornerstone of community safety, economic development and mental health.” 

Johnson’s commitment to affordable housing was at the forefront of his campaign promises. Initiatives like Bring Chicago Home, aimed at reducing homelessness through increased property transfer taxes, reflect his agenda. He wants to expedite zoning and building approvals for affordable developments.

In October, Johnson appointed Ciere Boatright as commissioner of the city’s Planning and Development department. Boatright oversaw a number of development projects as the former vice president of real estate and community development at CRG, construction firm Clayco’s real estate and investment arm. 

—Quinn Donoghue 

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