Chicago Department of Housing Releases Four-Year Highlights, Reaffirms Commitment to Mission

May 1, 2023

After a decade as a bureau of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, the Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) became a standalone department in 2019. Led by Commissioner Marisa Novara and under the mayorship of Lori E. Lightfoot, in the four years since DOH has expanded access and choice for residents and protect their right to quality homes that are affordable, safe, and healthy.

Across its work, DOH has maintained principles of equity and accessibility not only in its external affairs, but also internal as the two are intrinsically linked. To ensure the department engenders equitable impacts, Commissioner Novara created a Community Engagement, Racial Equity and Strategic Initiatives Bureau, which stewards DOH’s efforts to engage with communities and assess and address the ways that racism has shaped policies and decision-making in housing.

As part of this commitment, DOH completed a Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) in 2021 for its Qualified Allocation Plan, which determines how the department uses more than 60 percent of the City of Chicago’s affordable housing resources. In doing so, DOH has been able to implement necessary changes to its funding priorities to ensure federal affordable housing funds are directed where they are needed most.

Among DOH’s greatest achievements since 2019 is a $1 billion investment in affordable housing across 24 developments in 20 community areas, the city's largest ever. Other accomplishments include passing nine laws that expand diversity of housing choices and protect the city’s most vulnerable residents, providing resources to tenants and landlords, as well as creating homeownership opportunities particularly in historically disinvested areas of Chicago. DOH has invested in developments that offer affordable and quality housing and commercial amenities to underserved communities, expanded affordable housing in high-income parts of the City that lack it, and facilitated wealth-building for emerging housing developers and contractors.

“In the past four years, we have established a department that declares housing as a human right,” said Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara. “I am proud of the work we have done, and we are committed to continuing the hard work of ensuring Chicagoans across all 77 communities live in proximity to resources they need to thrive at every age.”

While a list of DOH’s four-year highlights is presented below, 2023 and onwards has seen a new Qualified Allocation Plan released which incorporates a new preference tract for Permanent Supportive Housing, as well as preferences for equitable Transit-Oriented Developments (eTODs) and building decarbonization. The rest of the year will see the closing of 25 multi-family developments, LIHTC Awards, and the release of a new five-year plan, further outlining the department’s goals until 2028.

DOH Four-Year Highlights

Policy and Legislation

  • Passed the Connected Communities Ordinance in 2022, the City’s largest expansion of TOD policy and affordability incentives and the first focused on equity.
  • Passed the Encumbrance Ordinance in 2022, eliminating city debt on vacant and abandoned buildings to facilitate their redevelopment. 
  • Passed the SRO Preservation Loan Fund in 2022, preserving affordable single-room occupancy units.
  • Passed the South Shore Condo/Co-Op Preservation Fund Pilot in 2022, supporting repairs of aging condominiums to allow low-income owners to age in place.
  • Passed a major revision of the Affordable Requirements Ordinance in 2021, encouraging affordable units serving lower incomes, larger families, and expanding applicable geography.
  • Passed anti-displacement measures in two communities in 2021, limiting deconversions and instituting a demolition permit surcharge.
  • Passed the Additional Dwelling Units (ADU) Ordinance in 2020, expanding housing access in five pilot areas across Chicago by allowing ADUs in attics, basements, and accessory buildings.
  • Passed the Fair Notice Ordinance in 2020, creating new rights and responsibilities for tenants and landlords to give Chicago renters more stability in their homes.
  • Passed the Woodlawn Preservation Ordinance in 2020, protecting existing residents from displacement and creating new rental and for-sale housing opportunities that are affordable to households at a range of incomes.


  • Issued the country’s first Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) on the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.
  • The REIA informed the largest investment in affordable housing in the City’s history: DOH’s 2021 $1 billion funding round and an equitable distribution of affordable housing across the city.
    • Out of 24 developments, the 2021 round included 12 eTODs in the South and West sides out of 18 eTODs in total.
  • Secured 1,200 hotel rooms and 900 new shelter beds to meet COVID-19 housing needs. 
  • Increased funding for the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund by $5 million annually.
  • Collaborated on the LaSalle Reimagined Initiative to go from 9 to 300+ units of affordable housing in Chicago’s downtown.
  • Closed the fourth overall COVID rental assistance grant round for a total of $170 million to prevent 30,000 Chicago households from becoming homeless.
  • Awarded the City’s first Right to Counsel (RTC) pilot program with $8 million over three years. To date RTC has provided representation to more than 600 households involved in eviction court.
  • Since 2019, closed 45 multi-family developments, creating a total of 4,463 new and rehabbed units, and assisted another 37 developments to refinance and remain affordable.
  • Under the Chicago Recovery Plan and with DFSS, launched the Non-Congregate Shelter Acquisition Program to fund the acquisition of non-congregate shelters for Chicagoans experiencing homelessness. Five shelter operators were selected for shelter acquisition and rehab in 2023.
  • Created a 3-year spending plan for $240 million in Chicago Recovery Plan funding, of which:
    • $75M for multi-family developments has been allocated.
    • For the first time, used CRP funds to support limited equity cooperative homeownership. CRP funds will allow the Pilsen Housing Cooperative to acquire their third building and deeply underwrite the share cost for new coop members, allowing for both wealth-building and permanent affordability. An RFP for more cooperative operators is planned for Q2 2023. 
  • Launched 9 single-family developments creating affordable homeownership opportunities for working families in several neighborhoods: West Pullman, South Shore/Calumet Heights, North Lawndale, Humboldt Park, Near West Side, West Town, and East Garfield Park.
  • Created 622 affordable units in high-income areas and collected $16 million in fees through the Affordable Requirements Ordinance.
  • Created a comprehensive guide to DOH’s programs and services for homeowners, homebuyers, and renters and translated it into 10 languages.
  • Created a Resource Finding Tool in English and Spanish for DOH’s website to assist owners, renters and developers more easily access the resources they need.


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