Building Equity: Strategies for Addressing the Racial Wealth Gap Through Housing Policies - City Club of Chicago
Building Equity: Strategies for Addressing the Racial Wealth Gap Through Housing Policies

Building Equity: Strategies for Addressing the Racial Wealth Gap Through Housing Policies

Moderated by WBEZ's Erin Allen
Panelists: UChicago's Dr. Robert J. Chaskin, Housing Commissioner Lissette CastaƱeda, Chicago Community Trust's Marisa Novara

Wednesday, May 1, 2024
Doors Open at 11:30 am / Event Begins at 12:00 pm


Maggiano's Banquets
111 W. Grand Avenue
ChicagoIL 60654

Map and directions

Homeownership remains the principal way most families build wealth in this country. Despite this, the gap in homeownership rates between households of color and white households in the US is bigger today than it was when it was legal to refuse to sell someone a home because of the color of their skin. Changing the course of this entrenched problem requires intentional, evidence-based policymaking. Join us for this conversation about strategies that our city might consider to help close the growing racial homeownership gap and improve wealth equity for marginalized communities—especially families of color—thereby strengthening Chicago communities.

City Club of Chicago and the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice are partnering on an ongoing event series that explores the many ways that local leaders are partnering with researchers to advance evidence-based policies that strengthen Chicago’s diverse communities.


Dr. Robert Chaskin

Professor Chaskin's work focuses on the conceptual foundations and principal strategies of social policy and community intervention in the context of urban poverty. He has written widely on the topics of neighborhood intervention, community capacity building, and the dynamics of participatory planning and neighborhood governance, among other topics. His research focuses on social policy and community practice in two principal ways: through grounded investigations of particular interventions and through synthetic, cross-intervention analyses. To date, Professor Chaskin's work has evolved along three major lines. The first is concerned with theories of community and social policy responses to urban poverty, the second focuses strategies of community change with a particular focus on participatory planning and democratic governance at the neighborhood level, and the third is concerned with the application of knowledge to inform community practice and policy.

Among other projects, he has recently completed work on a multi-year, multi-site study of public housing reform in Chicago, with a particular focus on the emerging mixed-income developments being built in several Chicago neighborhoods on the footprint of former public housing developments. This project culminated in the book Integrating the Inner City: The Promise and Perils of Mixed-Income Public Housing Transformation (with Mark Joseph, The University of Chicago Press, 2015), which received the Honorable Mention for the Best Book in Urban Affairs Award from the Urban Affairs Association. His latest book (edited with Bong Joo Lee and Surinder Jaswal), Social Exclusion in Cross-National Perspective: Actors, Actions, and Impacts from Above and Below, was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. 

Professor Chaskin was inducted into the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare in 2020. He received his A.M. in Anthropology and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. 

Commissioner Lissette CastaƱeda

Lissette Castañeda comes to the role of Department of Housing Commissioner with two decades of experience in affordable housing development, housing services, and organizational leadership.

Commissioner Castañeda is tasked with streamlining the affordable housing development process as per Mayor Brandon Johnson’s recent executive order and expanding homeownership to Chicagoans in historically disinvested communities.

Castañeda has served as the Executive Director for LUCHA, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counseling agency as well as a Community Housing Development Organization since 2019, overseeing its affordable real estate portfolio and leading implementation of its strategic plan.

Prior to serving at LUCHA, Castañeda served as the Interim Executive Director and the Director of Community Engagement for the Center for Changing Lives, where she worked to expand economic opportunities and revitalize neighborhoods across Chicago. Castañeda has served on a number of boards including Palenque LSNA, Chicago Housing Trust, Illinois Housing Council and the Chicago Rehab Network. 

For Castañeda, stable, affordable housing is a cornerstone of community safety, economic development and mental health. She is honored to serve in this role where she can spearhead new housing developments while ensuring Chicagoans have the services theyneed to stay in their homes for the long term.

Marisa Novara

As the Vice President of Community Impact for The Chicago Community Trust, Marisa Novara leads the team that oversees the development and implementation of the Trust’s strategic initiatives, its policy agenda, and grant making to reduce the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago region. She has more than 25 years of experience engaging with communities to create innovative programs that respond to their needs and drive policy change. Most recently, Marisa served as Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Housing. She led the passage of nine bills in four years, conducted the country’s first Racial Equity Impact Assessment on the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program and in 2021 invested a record $1 billion in affordable housing.

Before joining the City, Novara was vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, where she designed and managed the Cost of Segregation project, which concluded how decades-old racial and economic segregation patterns 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. Before that, 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 Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice, 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.  

Erin Allen

Erin Allen is the host and producer of WBEZ's "The Rundown" podcast. Erin an artist and communicator, driven by her curiosity about the stories of people. She has a dynamic background in audio, from producing multimedia work at Michigan Radio and WDET to co-hosting Radio Campfire, a live, listening event series. Her passion for social justice and art with her skills in marketing and communications have led her to spaces like Stone Soup Housing Cooperative and Allied Media Projects. Erin holds a BA in psychology from Grand Valley State University. With spare time, she dances her heart out at music festivals and binges science fiction media of the Octavia Butler persuasion.

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