• Michael McDevitt
    JUL 13, 2023

    News in brief: Housing commissioner to exit, county and state declare disasters following early July storms


    The city’s housing commissioner will soon vacate her post, and the state and Cook County have declared disasters in response to recent storms affecting the area.

    HOUSING COMMISSIONER TO EXIT — City Housing Comm. Marisa Novara announced she will step down from her position at the end of the month, according to multiple news reports. Novara is a holdover from former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration, and she was appointed in 2019 after previously serving as vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council. Novara helped pass several significant pieces of legislation during her time and chaired the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Response Team during the pandemic, playing a key role in securing additional hotel and shelter beds for people. Her department also managed a pandemic-era grant program that provided financial support and legal aid to people facing housing insecurity during the pandemic. Novara told Crain’s she was optimistic about housing policy under Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration but “I think it's just time to pass the baton to the next person.” Some of the laws to pass under Novara include the Fair Notice Ordinance, which required landlords to notify tenants of lease non-renewals and rent hikes months sooner; the Additional Dwelling Unit Ordinance, which allowed affordable rental options in the attics, basements or small guest houses on properties; changes to the Affordable Requirements Ordinance and passage of the Connected Communities Ordinance, which amended the zoning code to facilitate more equitable transit-oriented developments citywide. 

    DISASTER DECLARATION — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle issued a disaster proclamation Tuesday for suburban Cook County following torrential rainstorms and flooding July 2. Severe damage and flooding resulted when nearly nine inches of rain fell over less than 24 hours, according to a news release from the county. The hardest hit suburban municipalities included Cicero, Berwyn and Stickney. The county’s disaster declaration will allow it to access “all available resources” to assist communities with recovery. “My administration immediately took action to ensure that municipalities had the resources they needed to safeguard their communities,” Preckwinkle said in the news release. “This proclamation is the latest step in the process to assist in the recovery from the storm’s impacts.” The Cook County Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security responded in real time to the storms and continues to assist with recovery, such as by conducting preliminary damage assessments, the county said. More than 3,400 reports of damage to homes and businesses have been filed across affected municipalities. “These reports, combined with data collected by the City of Chicago for their jurisdiction, demonstrate the significant impact of this storm and associated flash flooding on the region,” the county said. Gov. JB Pritzker also issued a disaster proclamation Tuesday for multiple counties affected by recent severe weather, including Cook County. “To support those impacted across the state, I have signed a disaster proclamation to mobilize every available resource, accelerating the recovery process and providing relief for our residents,” Pritzker said in a news release.

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