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Chicago hits 21 ADU permits in 2021

Published on Dec. 15, 2021 by Steven Vance

Updated on Dec. 16, 2021

Chicago re-legalized the construction of “accessory dwelling units” one year ago today. Happy first anniversary, ADU ordinance!

This is the story I’ve been waiting a couple of weeks to write. Let’s celebrate that 21 basement units and backyard houses will be under construction and hosting tenants, guests, and family members next year, set a goal for 2022, discuss new ADU grants, and share some new backyard ADU designs.

Moss Design, a Chicago architecture firm listed in Chicago Cityscape’s ADU service provider directory, is working on this backyard house design for a client in Logan Square.
The map above shows where the 21 ADU permits were issued. View the map in Chicago Cityscape’s Building Permits Browser.

The Chicago Department of Building started accepting permit applications in May, and the first ADU permit was issued on September 1, 2021.

The architect for that first basement unit was Purohit Hemal, who works for BLDG PROJ.

I interviewed Kaya and Virginia of BLDG PROJ last month because their firm is associated with the most ADU permits.

Where the permits are

Of the 21 ADU permits, six of them are for backyard houses. See an always-updated list of ADU permits in Cityscape’s Building Permits Browser

The following charts show where ADU permits were issued by ward and community area. The Edgewater community area has five ADU permits; amongst wards, the 47th and 48th are tied, each with four ADU permits.

Two charts show the distribution of ADU permits amongst Chicago community areas and wards.

Looking ahead to 2022

For next year, I would like to see ADU permit issuance reach three digits (meaning, at least 100). This might be difficult, and I don’t have enough information from applicants and potential applicants to confidently explain the reasons why we may not reach 100 ADU permits in 2022.

I have a hunch, though, and it has to do with funding. In May I created a survey to collect thoughts and ideas from people on how they were planning or intendent to fund their ADU. Most responses have been from people who were still establishing how they would fund a basement unit or backyard house.

To help with that, City Council created a special program to help fund the construction of ADUs. The program is administered by Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, and was launched this fall.

Here’s how the ADU grant program works:

  • Money can be used to create new units or bring existing units up to code
  • There are planning grants and construction grants
  • Planning grants are up to $10,000 and “cover a home consultation, architect fees, and permit fees”
  • Construction grants are up to $75,000, and are in the form of forgivable loans (after five years of meeting program requirements)
  • Applicants must be owner-occupants
  • Household income (you plus everyone in your household) cannot exceed 140 percent of the area median income (this number is currently $117,460 for a household of three people)

Review the documentation requirements and apply online or in-person.

New backyard house designs

Last month I participated in a panel presentation and discussion with a class of architecture students at IIT, alongside Andrew Bayley (Moss Design, based in Chicago), Cristina Gallo (Via Chicago Architects & Diseñadores, based in Chicago), and Katherine Gullick (an architecture student in Houston who recently completed a backyard house installation there).

Andrew and Cristina are both working on backyard house designs that are expected to have building permits issued soon. Check out their designs below.

Cristina Gallo discussed “The Snug”. Cristina and Via Chicago Architects are listed in Cityscape’s ADU service provider directory. Photo of Cristina by Jennifer Park, one of the class educators at IIT.
Andrew Bayley presented sketches for a future backyard house in Lincoln Square that is proposed to have solar panels. Photo of Andrew by Jennifer Park.

Chicago hits 21 ADU permits in 2021 was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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