back to blog

Let’s keep ADUs in the 2020 news

Published on Jan. 7, 2020 by Steven Vance

Updated on Mar. 16, 2020

See which alders support ADU legislation (map)

I agree with Alder Ramirez-Rosa that “ADU” is not the best term for the kind of “additional” or “accessory” housing that Chicago has banned since 1957 [1]. I prefer “casita”, or “little house” in Spanish. But the headline rhymes!

I want to formally register my dislike for the term ADU. It's a coach house. It's a garden apartment. Build them. Legalize them. Preserve and build upon the gentle density that brings character and greatness to our Chicago neighborhoods. But can we please not call them ADUs?

 — @CDRosa

My 2020 goal is to keep ADUs in the news every week until an ordinance to re-legalize them is passed by Chicago City Council. Then, after passage, ADUS will still need to be discussed in the news media, because adoption and construction is going to take awhile.

What would you call this? This house is older than the one that faces the sidewalk. Photo by Gabriel X. Michael.

Where are we at on January 7, 2020? 48th Ward Alder Harry Osterman, Chair of the Housing Committee said in December that he’d like to see a draft (from the mayor’s office) of an ADU ordinance this month to pass in the spring.

Help me keep this in the news and share these articles with your real estate colleagues, your neighborhood organization, and your mom and dad.

December 2019 articles

  • Crain’s by Dennis Rodkin: “But bringing back ADUs could have appeal besides lowering the cost of housing, [Skylar] Olsen and others said. It would keep some existing houses and multiflat buildings from being torn down and replaced with big new single-family homes, according to Steven Vance, director of urban planning at Chicago-based MAP Strategies and a vocal proponent of ADUs who’s on the Urban Land Institute’s ADU Task Force along with several city officials.”

January 2020 articles

  • Chicago Sun-Times by Ed Zotti: “Is it possible to build higher-density housing in desirable areas without destroying neighborhood character? Absolutely. Possibilities include: Accessory dwelling units.”
  • Chicago Tribune by Carisa Crawford Chappell: “[Jaime] Torres said ADUs include not just a carriage house in the back of a building, but maybe an attic built above a two-flat, or a garden unit. “There’s a whole zoning issue that’s impeding the ability to have multiple units within a single-family home. That’s a big push.”
  • Chicago Sun-Times by David Roeder: “Vance, director of urban planning at the consulting firm MAP Strategies, said ADUs address the affordable housing issue only at its margin, but it’s an important margin.”

February 2020 articles

  • Crain’s by Dennis Rodkin: “We see it as an equity issue,” Robbie Markus [Evanston Development Cooperative] said, “that previously one type of homeowner could have access to this, whereas another could not.”
  • Curbed Chicago by Jay Koziarz: “It’s clear to a lot us all over the state, that many, if not all, communities in Illinois are struggling to provide affordable housing,” says State Representative Will Guzzardi.
  • The Daily Line by Alex Nitkin: ‘The legalization measure is “a way to increase the number of affordable units without a public subsidy, and that’s its number-one draw from a public policy point of view,” said Vance.’

March 2020

  • Hyde Park Herald by Christian Belanger: “[ADUs are] an incremental way to gently insert density into established neighborhoods, while allowing those who own those houses to stay in their house and generate additional income,” Cox said.
  • Chicago Sun-Times by David Roeder: ‘Daniel Kay Hertz, director of policy at the Department of Housing, said a similar change in Los Angeles yielded 7,000 new units over six years, with most coming later in that period. “One thing unique about Chicago is our housing stock has all of these basements that are suitable for apartments,” Hertz said.’
  • Who’s going to write the next one?

[1] One reason why “ADU” is good, at least for urban planners, is that it’s the only term that means “all of the kinds of small and accessory homes” in the country. There are different words based on country and regions. Some of the words are synonymous with “ADU” (meaning any kind of accessory home) and some of the words represent specific kinds of ADUs (a coach house implies there’s a garage, while rear house doesn’t).

Thank you Anjulie R. for your help getting and keeping ADUs in the news.


Let’s keep ADUs in the 2020 news was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.