Published on Dec. 12, 2020 by Steven Vance
Updated on Dec. 18, 2020
The ordinance was adopted on 12/16/20. Read our new FAQ.
On Tuesday, December 15, 2020, Chicago’s zoning and housing committees will receive a revised version of the accessory dwelling units (ADU) ordinance that was proposed in May. The ordinance was heard at a July committee hearing, and held on ice since then. The revision makes some steps forward and some steps backwards.
My summary is based on a report in The Daily Line, and other sources — I haven’t seen the revisions myself, and they’re subject to change up until the committee meeting on Tuesday. Let’s jump right in.
The good (and kinda great)
The ugly is the patchwork of location rules
Several rules were reported to stay the same since May (read that FAQ):
Look up your zoning district with Chicago Cityscape’s Address Snapshot.
Here’s my cynical view of the revision: I thought that Chicago wanted to repopulate, encourage people to build homes for their parents and their children, let the private housing market provide unsubsidized affordable housing, and reuse vacant land by allowing new small and lower-cost housing.
Instead City Council is going to adopt a policy that changes the look of the barriers in the original proposal and create a geographic patchwork of rules, privilege first adopters (people who are ready to get permits) in part of the already-limited area of eligibility, and ensure many vacant lots persist.
I believe that City Council can augment the policy as time goes on, and I have faith that the staff I know in City Hall, and the community advocates who have been asking for basement units to be legal, intend to do so.
I understand that this is the compromise that was needed to get it passed, and re-legalize a historic practice. Every city and state — remember, ADUs are legal in all of Washington, Oregon, and California — that has legalized this kind of housing has gone through many changes for years until it found a framework that actually supported the significant addition of new housing and housing options.
The ordinance proposed back in May was a good attempt at bypassing the need for countless revisions. This version does not do that.
City Council to review revised ADU ordinance to apply in pilot areas only was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
City Council to review revised ADU ordinance to apply in pilot areas only [you're reading this one]