Luis Gutierrez, founder and CEO of Latinos Progresando was appointed last October by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Board of Commissioners. CHA Board Chairwoman Angela Hurlock describes him as a tireless proponent for the communities of Pilsen and Little Village and she believes that his expertise will serve the CHA in helping build vibrant communities as well as help create housing opportunities all over Chicago. We spoke to Gutierrez about his new role at CHA.
Tell me about your experience as a CHA commissioner thus far.
I was truly honored to be nominated by the Mayor, and it is a pleasure to serve under the leadership of Chairperson Angela Hurlock. So far, it’s been a learning experience, and I’ve been enjoying meeting all of the people involved with CHA, particularly my fellow commissioners. This is such an important role, and one I approach seriously, as the decisions we make have such an impact on people’s lives. I’m grateful to be a part of the work to provide affordable housing for all Chicago communities on an equitable basis.
What is the purpose of the CHA Board of Commissioners?
The CHA Board of Commissioners is the independent governing body that determines the policies of the CHA. Based on CHA bylaws, the management and control of all officers, employees, property, and business of the CHA are vested in the CHA Board of Commissioners. The Board of Commissioners, by resolution, delegates discretional powers and duties to the chief executive officer. The Board approves decisions that chart the direction of current and future programs and authorizes the actions of the Chief Executive Officer.
What projects have you been involved in?
During the past five months, I have been taking the opportunity to learn from my colleagues on the Board and the CHA staff to fully understand the role of the Board and how I fit into the team. I am becoming familiar with board governance matters and have been exposed to the approval process for CHA’s $1.2 billion budget for FY2022.
What do you enjoy about being a commissioner?
The chance to make a positive difference in people’s lives and to serve as an advocate for the Chicago Housing Authority. The CHA board governs expenditures of over $1.2B and this provides housing and vital services to over 63,000 households encompassing more than 132,000 residents. I’m enjoying the opportunity to work with talented people on the board and staff who share my commitment to making a difference, not only for CHA residents but for the communities at large.
How important is it for a Hispanic commissioner to be appointed?
Hispanics now represent almost 30 percent of Chicago’s population. Accordingly, representation in all facets of business, civic and governmental agencies plays an integral role in connecting and strengthening our city. In my 20 years of experience with Latinos Progresando, I have seen how public policy can both positively and negatively impact communities. This experience inspired me to focus on developing and supporting initiatives addressing key challenges such as immigration laws, housing, and economic mobility among Latino families. That is why diverse representation is so important—that direct lived experience and knowledge bring a unique and important perspective to solving these challenges. I look forward to deepening CHA’s relationship with Latino communities during my tenure. I want to continue partnering with elected officials, community leaders, and stakeholders in expanding opportunities for Latinos in Chicago.
Is there anything new in regards to public housing?
Housing is an evolving and ever-changing industry subject to federal legislation. As a new CHA Commissioner, I’m trying to maintain my awareness of the many significant legislative and programmatic changes on a national and local level. In my role as CHA Commissioner, I would like to be more informed and involved in issues such as the affordable housing crisis, growing racial disparities, and addressing barriers to homeownership for Latinos and lower-income households.
To learn more about the Chicago Housing Authority, visit www.thecha.org.