Leadership

  • Marisa Novara
  • Commissioner
Commissioner Marisa Novara

Marisa Novara was appointed Commissioner of the Department of Housing (DOH) by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot in May 2019 and was confirmed by Chicago City Council on June 12, 2019. Believing that housing is a human right, Commissioner Novara directs the City’s efforts to create equitably distributed affordable housing across Chicago’s 77 community areas through policies, development, and legislation. 

Since 2019, Novara has led the department in the creation of policies to ensure that all 50 wards contribute to the city’s affordable housing needs, while also responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Chair of the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Response Team, Novara led the effort to secure 1,200 hotel rooms and 900 additional shelter beds to meet the needs presented by the pandemic. Under her leadership, DOH has managed two rounds of COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grants providing over $37 million of financial and legal support directly to impacted residents and passed the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance.  

Multiple policy changes include passing the Fair Notice Ordinance that provides more stability and predictability for Chicago renters by extending the notice period required for lease non-renewals and notice of increased rent from 30 days to up to 120 days; the Woodlawn Affordable Housing Preservation Ordinance, an unprecedented effort to mitigate displacement and proactively build community wealth ahead of a major public amenity; the Additional Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance that legalizes below-market rental units in attics, basements, and coach houses for the first time in over 60 years; and anti-displacement measures for the Pilsen neighborhood and the area surrounding the 606/Bloomingdale Trail that limit the ability to demolish two to eight unit buildings and institute a demolition permit surcharge.  

More recently, DOH has taken significant steps toward its mission to expand housing choice for all Chicagoans. After an inclusive 18-month process with advocates, developers and stakeholders,  Novara led the department to a major revision of the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO). This revision encourages affordable units serving lower incomes, larger family sizes and expands the geography to include parts of the city experiencing displacement of longtime residents and areas that have traditionally had very little affordable housing  

Novara also led the charge for the country’s first Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) of rental housing developments which are supported by Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Racial Equity Impact Assessments (REIA) are public examinations of how racial & ethnic groups are affected by proposed or existing programs, policies, or decisions. DOH’s REIA resulted in recommendations to increase opportunities for developers and contractors of color to participate, ensuring tenant applicants are not unfairly screened out by conviction records or credit scores and addressing residents’ mental health needs. These changes are reflected in DOH’s 2021 call for LIHTC proposals. 

Before joining the City, Novara was vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC). During her eight-year tenure at MPC, Novara designed and managed the Cost of Segregation project, a 2017 study that concluded how decades-old patterns of racial and economic segregation cost the Chicago region an estimated $4.4 billion in additional income each year. She also led the subsequent creation of the region’s first comprehensive guide to a more racially equitable future, among other reports, studies and articles.  

Prior to MPC, Novara directed affordable rental and for-sale housing development for Lawndale Christian Development Corp. in the North Lawndale community, where she lived and worked for more than a decade. 

Novara has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in sociology, master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, certificate in affordable housing finance, development and management from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and master’s in urban planning from the Istituto Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy.  

She lives in the Little Italy neighborhood with her family. 

  

Sendy SotoSendy Soto
Managing Deputy Commissioner 

 

 

Sendy Soto is the Managing Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Housing’s (DOH) newly formed Office of Community Engagement, Racial Equity and Strategic Initiatives (CERESI).

As a lifelong Chicagoan, Soto is committed to undoing the harms of systemic racism and discrimination and works to ensure that affordable housing is equitably distributed throughout the City and the voices of all residents are being heard. Since joining DOH, Soto has instituted a language access plan that expanded the department's outreach through digital and print resources in six different languages, while also leading the efforts to recommit DOH to affirmatively further fair housing. Soto also co-led the Racial Equity Impact Assessment of the City's Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) to consider how the QAP could be utilized to make the LIHTC allocation process and its results more racially equitable and ensure more opportunities for community wealth building.

For more than 15 years, Soto has been a trusted advisor to high-profile decisionmakers in government, private and nonprofit sectors with an emphasis on housing, immigration and health care. She has held leadership positions with the offices of Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, then-Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin, and has designed strategies and deepened impact for AMITA Health System and the YWCA Evanston/North Shore.

In 2019, Soto was appointed by Governor J.B. Pritzker to serve on the Governing Commission for the Logan Square, Avondale and Hermosa Expanded Mental Health Services Program.

Soto holds a B.S. in Justice Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

 

 

Bryan EsenbergBryan Esenberg
Managing Deputy Commissioner

 

 

 

Bryan Esenberg is the Managing Deputy Commissioner for DOH Programs. Committed to improving housing choice for all residents, Esenberg has been instrumental in the acquisition and development of affordable programs for homeownership, rental and neighborhood development across the City resulting in thousands of new and preserved affordable homes, revitalized communities, and healthier lives.

Esenberg was a leading driver of the department’s move to bi-annual rounds of the Qualified Allocation Plan of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), the City’s largest producer of low-income housing units. He has continued this effort of transparency by introducing an intake process for multi-family unit developments by engaging with underwriters in advance of an application that provides feedback on policy, procedure, and readiness for each applicant.

Since joining DOH in 2013, Esenberg has held various positions within the department including Assistant Commissioner for Multifamily (MF) Development, Assistant Commissioner of Housing Preservation, and Deputy Commissioner for MF Development and Housing Preservation. One of only three US cities empowered to allocate these dollars, Esenberg oversaw the LIHTC allocation process in 2017 and 2019. DOH allocates and leverages over $100M of LIHTC and Federal resources for MF development annually, producing approximately 1,200 units per year.

Esenberg began his affordable career at Neighborhood Housing Services Redevelopment Corporation (NHSRC) where he saw the struggles and rewards of returning vacant and abandoned buildings back to productive use. As the NeighborHomes Manager, Esenberg was responsible for the acquisition, construction and sales of NHSRC’s rehabbed homes and the management of their MF rental portfolio where he focused on developments that would improve housing choice for residents.

Prior joining NHSRC, Esenberg worked for the Japan External Trade Organization [JETRO], the official oversees trade promotion agency of Japan. He holds a BA in Economics from Indiana University, a MA in Real Estate from the University of Illinois, Chicago and is a 2019 Alumnus of the University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy. Outside of work, Esenberg’s favorite activities include playing music, practicing jiu jitsu, and doing both with his son.

 

Daniel HertzDaniel Hertz
Director of Policy, Research, and Legislative Affairs

 

Daniel Kay Hertz serves as Director of Policy, Research and Legislative Affairs for DOH. He has been a key driver of many of the department’s most impactful policies and programs including the anti-deconversion ordinances for Pilsen and The 606 designed to reduce displacement of low- to moderate-income residents while also maintaining the existing character and housing stock, the Inclusionary Housing Task Force process leading to the introduction of major revisions to the city's Affordable Requirements Ordinance, and the execution of two rounds of COVID-19 rental assistance grants, which provided nearly 10,000 households financially impacted by COVID-related shutdowns with much-needed funds. Hertz will lead a third round of assistance beginning Spring 2021.

Prior to joining DOH in 2019, Hertz, a Chicago native, served as Research Director at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, where he worked on state and local fiscal policy issues, and Senior Fellow at City Observatory, an urban policy think tank.

Hertz is the author of The Battle of Lincoln Park: Urban Renewal and Gentrification in Chicago, about gentrification in Lincoln Park during the 1960s. In his free time, he likes to read novels and books about Chicago history and bike to the bird sanctuary at Montrose Harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

Irma Morales

Irma L. Morales
Deputy Commissioner

 

Irma L. Morales is Deputy Commissioner for DOH’s Bureau of Homeownership Programs. Her experience includes over 25 years working with single family housing and residential lending and has served with the department since 2006.

Morales directly oversees Housing Delegate Agency Contracts, home repair grants for owner-occupants, Purchase Price Assistance, compliance of resale and subordinations of existing affordable homes, and Single-Family Development - City Lots for Working Families.

Prior to joining DOH, Morales served as the Director of New Lending Partnerships and Alliances for Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS). During her tenure at NHS, she maintained public and private partnerships for the Home Ownership Program Initiative, a national laboratory in which non-profits, lenders, and government entities collaborated in innovative solutions for the then-ensuing foreclosure crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James HoranJames Horan
Deputy Commissioner


 

Jim Horan is Deputy Commissioner overseeing the Construction and Compliance Bureau within the Department of Housing (DOH).

Since 2018, Horan has provided leadership, vision, and oversight of the management team and staff to ensure efficient and accountable operations within the five units that make up DOH's Construction and Compliance Bureau, including long term monitoring of the over 400 properties within the City’s affordable housing portfolio; oversight and approval of the construction phase, contractor activity and payments for multi-family buildings; monitoring and reporting on minority and woman contractor participation; enforcement of the Davis Bacon Act prevailing wage requirements; and all aspects of construction management for work performed under for the Home Repair Program (HRP), formerly the Roof and Porch Program, and senior small repair program.

Horan designed the HRP to replace the Roof and Porch Repair Program and expand services to include remediation of environmental health hazards, climate resiliency, and accessible repairs for households with disabled occupants. The expanded offerings will require new service providers that will be key in managing a qualified pool of local small and minority construction firms that will make needed repairs to the homes of low- and moderate-income qualified homeowners. Horan also leads the revision of the Architectural Standards manual for multi-family new construction and rehabilitation projects.

With the City of Chicago since 2001, Horan held positions in various divisions within the Department of Planning and Development prior to joining the housing team. Over the years he has worked on community economic development efforts to revitalize industrial and commercial corridors on the south and west sides of the City, including planned developments, economic development, affordable housing, and financial incentives for providers of affordable housing.

Horan holds a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies and a master's in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.

  

Tamra CollinsTamra Collins
Deputy Commissioner

 

Tamra Collins serves as Deputy Commissioner for the Housing Development Bureau for DOH. The Bureau includes the Housing Finance Division (Multifamily Finance and Asset Management) and the Neighborhood Development and Housing Preservation Division, including the Troubled Buildings Initiative, Micro-Market Recovery Program, Community Receiver, Chicago Neighborhood Rebuild pilot program, and Tax Increment Financing Purchase Rehab.

Prior to her current role, Collins’ nearly two decades of experience includes as Project Coordinator and Financial Planning Analyst (FPA) with both DOH and the Department of Planning and Development, where together with local elected officials, developers, nonprofits, and community organizations she worked to bring safe, decent and affordable housing and economic development to the residents of Chicago. Collins has expertise in the financial analysis and underwriting of multi-family financing projects utilizing private and public resources including land, Tax-Increment Financing, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Tax-Exempt Bonds, Community Development Block Grants, and HOME Investments Partnership Programs. In addition to her duties as an FPA, Collins served as team lead in technical assistance and departmental liaison to All Chicago’s Continuum of Care, which works to prevent and end homelessness throughout all 77 communities.

Collins is a graduate of Southern University and A&M College, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Baton Rouge, LA. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing.

 

 

Eugenia Orr

Dr. Eugenia Orr
Director of Public Relations

 

 

Dr. Eugenia Orr serves as the Director of Public Relations for DOH and brings nearly two decades of marketing, communications, leadership, and relationship-building experience to the role. In April of 2019 Dr. Orr, a native Chicagoan, was recruited to work on then Mayor-elect Lori E. Lightfoot’s transition team to help with policy-to-communications work and transitioned into Mayor Lightfoot’s communications office specializing in community and ethnic media outreach.

In March 2020 at the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic, she was tasked to lead the communications and education working group for the City’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team (RERRT), a special task force created to deliver hyper-local information, education and resources to Black and Brown communities which are disproportionately impacted, in both cases and deaths, by COVID-19.

Prior to joining the City of Chicago, she operated a successful specialty writing business, Euyeveia Media and Events, where she crafted customized messaging for an extensive client list that included individuals and organizations throughout Chicago and in Texas, Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina. Dr. Orr also served as Chief of Staff for legendary radio station WVON 1690AM where she led the strategic execution of all the station’s media and communication platforms and community events.

Dr. Orr earned her doctorate in Ethical Leadership from Olivet Nazarene University, where she researched the impact of the 2008 housing and foreclosure crisis on Chicago’s ever-gentrifying Bronzeville neighborhood. Her dissertation, Bronzeville Redevelopment and Foreclosure: What Impact Has Condominium Conversion had on the Bronzeville Neighborhood?, is Olivet’s most downloaded reference on foreclosure and neighborhood development. She also holds a Master of Urban Planning and Policy from UIC and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design from the International Academy of Design and Technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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