Chicago Cityscape's '1909' newsletter

David Zegeye is a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and an astrophysicist with a passion for Chicago. @DavidZegeye

Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail, part of The 606, is an elevated park connecting neighborhoods across the city’s West and Northwest Side. The trail was developed from an abandoned railroad line that ran through Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Bucktown, and Wicker Park. While rails-to-trails parks in other cities have been predominantly built in wealthy, white neighborhoods, The 606 connects many economically and racially diverse neighborhoods. That residents from different areas of the city can enjoy the benefits of the trail was one of the factors that helped make The 606 so popular when opening in 2015.

However, The 606’s popularity has also contributed to a significant rise in housing prices around the trail. Although The 606 is not solely responsible for the steep increases in housing costs, many long-time residents are being displaced because they can no longer afford the higher rents and property taxes in the area.

The proposed 606 Residential Area (interactive map) is bounded by Palmer, Western, Hirsch, and Kostner. The Bloomingdale Trail runs east-west in the center of the blue area, and its western terminus is just to the east of the railroad junction on the left third of the map.

The first anti-demolition ordinance

To address concerns of displacement along The 606, Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), and former Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) proposed an ordinance in 2017 to raise the demolition fee for residential properties along the 606 Residential Area and charge a fee for any multi-family buildings that are converted to single-family homes (SFHs). (Currently, there is a nominal fee for demolition permits of $500, or $1,000 if architectural drawings are required to be reviewed.)

The raised demolition fees would make it more expensive to tear down multi-unit buildings and could discourage the construction of build single-family homes in their place. Such teardowns have resulted in the loss of many buildings that provided affordable rents to the neighborhood, in favor of expensive SFHs, along many nearby neighborhoods. The deconversion fee would address similar concerns for multi-family buildings that are renovated and converted to SFHs.

Houses are often marketed as “teardowns” in real estate listings, and on billboards. This particular board says “site available” for a custom built single-family house.

Out of the community areas that the 606 intersects, Logan Square has had the most demolitions and teardowns since 2009. Teardowns peaked after the 606 opened, whereas other community areas peaked earlier.

Jennie Fronczak, director of development at LUCHA, an affordable housing developer, said “Demolitions mean less stability for children in our community who are displaced from their homes and their schools. Demolitions are literally tearing our community apart as they separate multi-generational support networks which allow working families to weather life’s challenges.”

The new anti-demolition ordinance

Although the ordinance never got passed, Ald. Maldonado and Ald. Ramirez-Rosa proposed a new ordinance last month (O2019–9439) intended to address concerns of displacement. Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) expressed interest in crafting the ordinance but is not one of the co-sponsors.

This ordinance differs from the previous one in several ways. First, the current ordinance would no longer raise demolition fees and instead would block any demolition permits for residential properties altogether, with the exception of emergency demolition permits being granted. In fact, all building permits for residential properties would be blocked.

Deconversion fees were also removed, meaning a property owner could still reduce the number of units in a multi-family building without paying a fee. The new ordinance disallows rezonings of any residential properties in the 606 Residential Area, from February 1, 2020 to March 31st, 2021. Commercial properties would be exempt from this ordinance, which are most of the properties on main neighborhood corridors such as Milwaukee Avenue and North Avenue.

Most of the area is zoned RS-3 (58 percent), which only allows new construction housing to be only single-family houses. There are some RT-4 zones (eight percent) which allows up to three-unit buildings. There are 52 other zoning districts that share the remaining 34 percent of land area in the ordinance’s pilot area.

Zoning rules and the way they’re geographically and spottily distributed in Chicago are one complication to building new and reusing housing. For example, and this gets very specific, two-flats in RS zones that were deconverted to single family are not allowed to convert back unless they’re 50 years old or older and there’s proof they were a legal two-flat in the past. Obtaining a zoning change could alleviate that and Ald. Ramirez-Rosa has done this for individual homeowners a couple of times, at least.

Although the ordinance would last fourteen months, landlords may want short-term economic gains to offset any potential loss in profits from lack of zoning changes. The reason why multi-family buildings on the North Side have been torn down for pricey SFHs, said by Mario Greco, a broker affiliated with Berkshire Hathaway, is because “the demand for new-construction homes is high enough that it makes financial sense to tear down what is a perfectly functioning building and put up a brand-new replacement” (Crain’s Chicago).

If the ordinance was in effect, instead of demolishing them, the pace of multi-family building deconversions may be accelerated in order to produce more highly-demanded SFHs, which would reduce the affordable housing stock in the area. Zoning rules don’t allow SFHs to be converted to multi-family buildings to offset the loss in overall units without lot-by-lot zoning changes, thus more people in the area could be displaced. This was part of the reason why the original ordinance had a deconversion fee.

A question of legality

The ordinance says the 26th Ward will commission and publish a study, by January 15, 2021, of various factors that lead to housing instability in the 606 Residential Area. The Residential Area would act as an experiment to see how rents and home prices are affected in a gentrifying neighborhood when demolitions and zoning changes are prohibited for more than a year, and many of the existing buildings are non-conforming properties. If the lack of zoning changes and demolitions add to housing instability, then the study should be able to identify this in any rental and housing price changes over the course of the study.

Since Chicago’s Department of Housing (DOH) has been tasked by the mayor to gather ways of preserving and creating affordable housing in the city, Ramirez-Rosa believes the results of the 606 Residential Area study could be used to inform future policy decisions. However, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is hesitant about the ordinance, citing legality issues with preventing demolitions for homes in the residential area. After speaking with the mayor’s office Ald. Ramirez-Rosa says the ordinance needs “a few minor changes” on language. Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), chair of the Committee on Housing and Real Estate, says he will “absolutely” call the ordinance for a vote at a zoning meeting on January 14th, after changes are made. The ordinance could possibly be voted on in the January 15th city council meeting.

Other strategies

Unfortunately, the loss of multi-family buildings has been a large part of the North Side’s history. To address this, some residents in Andersonville proposed downzoning a stretch of the neighborhood, which would be intended to prevent the demolition 2- to 4-flats in the neighborhood, and, to some, prevent the construction of “too large” single- and multil-family houses.

Although many of the residents wanted to prevent the demolition of these buildings, preserving the neighborhood’s affordability was not explicitly a goal of this initiative. As such, Ald. Matt Martin (47th) rejected the proposal.

Click the map of the SoFoZoCo area to enlarge (SoFoZoCo is short for the South of Foster Zoning Committee).

For much of the North Side’s history, downzonings have not prevented and often accelerated, the demolition of Chicago’s affordable housing stock. According to a report published last year titled A City Fragmented, Lincoln Park is responsible for 18% of the residential downzonings in the city since 1970, which has coincided with the loss of 25% of its population since 1960 and rent is one of the highest in the city.

The loss has worsened as multi-family buildings are deconverted to expensive SFHs, which now makes up a sizable portion of the residential zoning. As a result of downzonings in Lincoln Park and neighboring Lakeview “since 1970, the community areas have lost 25% of their rental housing stock and the percentage of affordable units of any size has decline from nearly 50% to an estimated 12%”.

Although downzoning will not preserve affordability and the building stock of Andersonville, Ald. Martin cited several initiatives to bring affordability to the neighborhood, such as re-legalizing accessory dwelling units (ADUs). ADUs can include basement units and coach houses, which have historically been a part of the city’s housing stock. Some of the Andersonville residents cited wanting to preserve the neighborhood’s character as the reason to ask for downzoning — this is also an argument that’s been used repeatedly in cities to justify a neighborhood’s exclusivity.

Since ADUs have the potential to be rented at affordable prices without altering the neighborhood’s appearance, they can be a part of the solution. Similar to iterations of the 606 Residential Area ordinance, Ald. Martin mentions raising demolition fees and changing the zoning code to limit the deconversion and teardowns of Chicago’s multi-family buildings.

Although these individual proposals — the demolition moratorium and the Andersonville downzoning request — may seem isolated, they are connected to the systematic loss of the city’s 2- to 4-flat housing stock. The loss of these affordable housing options on the North Side is due to rising land values, and are exacerbated by the city’s current zoning code. Until there is a structural change in the city’s land-use policy to address affordability for neighborhoods, “piecemeal” ordinances are the only option for residents and alderfolks to affect local housing, which by themselves may improve or worsen affordable housing options.


606 demolition ordinance moves forward after changes, while Andersonville downzoning is rejected was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Let’s keep ADUs in the 2020 news

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.”
  • 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.


Not everyone needs a recurring Cityscape Pro membership. To support those student researchers, home buyers, and others who just need data for a short time, Chicago Cityscape now offers nonrecurring options

Screenshot of some of the features in the Cityscape Pro membership.

These fixed-length Cityscape Pro memberships have all of the same features as a recurring Cityscape Pro membership.

Features included

  • Unlimited Address Snapshot lookups
  • Property tax and taxpayer (ownership) info
  • Zoning Dashboard (for Chicago and several other cities)
  • Transit Oriented Development status (for Chicago and more)

Be more informed

Want a longer term? Contact us.


Cityscape Pro is now available for 1, 2, and 3 month terms was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


City-owned land in downtown Chicago is for sale again— this time through a sustainable design competition

A little over four years ago, the City of Chicago issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for a tiny slice of the Loop that it owns across from the Harold Washington Library Center. This slice contains Pritzker Park and a parking garage south of Plymouth restaurant & rooftop bar.

Back then, in 2015, I wrote an article for Streetsblog Chicago suggesting that the city require an enclosed pathway for ‘L’’ riders to transfer between a Loop elevated station (Harold Washington Library Center/State/Van Buren where the Orange, Pink, Brown, and Purple Express lines stop) and a subway station (the Jackson Red Line station).

The land includes the disused parking garage, plus the Pritzker Park area west (left half of the photo) of the alley, extended to Van Buren St. (Van Buren St. is under the ‘L’ tracks at the bottom edge of the photo). Photos provided on Reinventing Cities website.

I forgot about the city’s intended land sale until last month when it reappeared for sale as part of an international development competition called “Reinventing Cities” to spur sustainable design proposals. The marketing is administered by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an association of city government executives “committed to addressing climate change”.

Proposals for land redevelopement are occuring around the world through C40’s program, and this is the second round in Chicago. The first round’s Chicago project was in East Garfield Park. A winner was chosen in May, and the developer is working to obtain financing.

The land includes the disused parking garage. Photos provided on Reinventing Cities website.

This time, there’s prime land that will eventually be sold to a selected development team. Chicago will sell four parcels of about 15,965 square feet. The current zoning is the city’s highest: DX-16. At a minimum, there is no height limit and the FAR of 16 means an allowable floor area of 255,400. The program fact sheet asks for a carbon neutral proposal.

Proposers will be able express their interest to the Chicago Department of Planning & Development soon. Then, by next quarter, DPD will finalize specific requirements “with partner agencies, stakeholders, and community outreach”. Partner agencies comprise the Chicago Department of Housing, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, and the CTA.

What would you like to see on this land?
Leave a response here, or
reply on Twitter.

A map of the four parcels being offered through the “Reinventing Cities” sustainable design competition.

Cityscape Pro members can get more details on the history and characteristics of these parcels

There are four offered PINs (click on each to get an Address Snapshot):

(One of the PINs listed on the website is erroneous. The “025” should be “029”.)


Downtown land that Chicago owns is up for sale again — this time thru a sustainable design… was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Recreational pot sales start in 13 days

Plus: Support local news and local brews

👋🏼 It’s been four weeks since Chicago Cityscape’s newsletter last graced your inbox with its arrival. That’s what happens when the author visits Oceania for more than two weeks. There isn’t a lot to say except Happy Holidays, it’s the end of 2019, and we hope you get your building permits issued this week!

Actually, there are some important things:

A screenshot of Chicago Cityscape’s exclusive cannabis zoning map of Chicago.
  • Block Club Chicago is an important, reader-supported news outlet that is nearing its goal of having 10,000 subscribers. We’ve been a subscriber since it started, and we’ve helped BCC reporters get information for stories. We also provide all reporters who write about Chicago’s neighborhoods a free Cityscape Pro membership.
  • Streetsblog Chicago is also fundraising. This is the only news outlet that tells transportation stories from the perspective of the millions of Chicagoans who walk, bike, and use transit, which is distinct from the “windshield perspective” that clouds many people’s judgment on good mobility policy, street design, and the built environment. The Chicago Community Trust is matching donations, but only if SBC can raise $50,000.
  • Englewood Brews also needs financial support. The brewery started construction three days ago with interior demolition at their 63rd and Halsted location in Englewood. Back it! We did!
Photos of the interior demolition of the now-under-construction Englewood Brews brewery. (From the Englewood Brews Facebook page taken on Monday, December 16, 2019.)
  • Hey, you made it this far! What do you want to see on Chicago Cityscape next year? Reply with a dataset you want, a feature you want, or a change you think would make it easier to use. If you’re curious to see what we’re thinking about, we publicize a partial wishlist/workplan.

Recreational pot sales start in 13 days was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


The fund is supported in large part by the MacArthur foundation, but anyone can make a small or large investment

Benefit Chicago is a local social impact investment fund launched in May 2016. Whet Moser wrote for Chicago magazine at the time: “[Benefit Chicago is] a community-investment vehicle that, on one side, loans money at low interest rates to people and projects that have trouble getting it from other types of financial institutions, and on the other, returns money to investors.”

The fund is operated by Calvert Impact Capital (which operates other funds), was seeded by MacArthur Foundation, and is advised by the Chicago Community Trust (among other organizations).

For as little as $20, anyone can invest their money online into Benefit Chicago knowing that it will be loaned to locally owned small businesses in Chicago based on social impact goals at a low interest rate and presumably without the kind of discrimination that Black and Brown small business owners suffer from when trying to get loans from big lenders.

I invested a very small amount of money in Benefit Chicago in 2016. I was excited that there was an investment fund that invested in Chicago businesses that a lot of Chicagoans can afford due to its low minimum. Many investment funds and crowdfunding programs have a minimum investment requirement of thousands of dollars and aren’t not necessarily local. I think the concept of Chicagoans supporting each other collectively through small investments is wonderful. I’m not offering investment advice.

For a while, though, it wasn’t totally apparent to me that Benefit Chicago was making any investments, and so it didn’t seem transparent. Fundrise, on the other hand, which is not a social impact fund, but a real estate investment trust, sends email every other week explaining its new investments, complete with photos and a summary explanation of the loan terms.

The investments Benefit Chicago is making today

Fast forward to October 2019; I still like the program and I saw an announcement from Benefit Chicago’s press relations team about two new investments to be administered through the Self-Help Ventures Fund. The fund is operated alongside the Self-Help Federal Credit Union, which entered Chicago this decade when it acquired Second Federal Savings & Loan and Seaway Bank.

According to the Self-Help website, the credit union and nonprofit fund were created by Martin Eakes and Bonnie Wright in 1980 to help “employees in rural North Carolina form farmworker-owned cooperatives and gain ownership of local mills that were being shut down”. The enterprising people were “stopped in their tracks because they couldn’t get conventional financing”.

Darryl Newell, market president of Seaway Bank, described to me the two projects that the Self-Help Ventures Fund is going to invest $5 million in on the South Side.

Healthy hub in Englewood

The Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) will use a $610,000 investment to partially fund a “healthy hub” in an existing Englewood building near 63rd Street and Racine Avenue. The project, at 1207 W 63rd St, received a building permit in May. Wheeler Kearns Architects is designing it.

Renderings of IMAN’s under construction healthy hub by Wheeler Kearns Architects.

“[IMAN] recognized that there’s a food desert there and they took control of an old building. They’re going to renovate it, have a healthy corner store, a café and eatery, and build some training space and office space.” Healthy food, Newell said, is one of the Self-Help Ventures Fund’s “lending segments” because “a lot of people need healthy foods in a walkable distance”.

IMAN is known for their work to change what corner stores sell in Black neighborhoods and improve relationships and understanding between customers and the many Muslim and/or Arab corner store owners. WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore first wrote about IMAN’s “Corner Store Campaign” in 2010, and referenced it in her book, The South Side, in 2016.

Community services hub in Chatham

The second project that Self-Help Ventures Fund is using Benefit Chicago money for is the conversion of Seaway Bank’s own former headquarters into a community services hub in Chatham. Newell said that “we [the bank] don’t need 40,000 square feet anymore” at the existing building at 645 E 87th St. “We only need 2,400 square feet” so Self-Help conducted a charrette to ask “what do we do with this big old building?”

Disclaimer: MAP Strategies, a Chicago small business where I’m the Director of Urban Planning & Technology, is the permit manager for this project. I am not involved in MAPS’s permit management services.

The former bank building will be renovated into a community services hub by the Self-Help Ventures Fund. Photo: Jeff Zoline

This is Self-Help’s first project outside of North Carolina, where the community development financial institution (CDFI) started, Newell said. From the charrette, Newell said, “We decided that we needed a community services hub.” Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) will be a tenant, and there will be a small bank outlet, and the remaining space will be rented to non-profits at a below-market rate.

Additionally, Newell said, there needs to be a center for small business owners to gather and meet, given that the Greater Chatham Initiative’s study found thousands of small businesses in the area “and we and Benefit Chicago agreed that they need a professional meeting place”.

Both of these projects sustain part of the mission of the Self-Help Ventures Fund, Newell said, to expand financing capabilities to include “flexible and risk-tolerant capital which can advance small businesses and have a local impact in Chicago”.


Two South Side community hubs are moving forward with investment from Benefit Chicago was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Thursday, November 07, 2019

Where the ARO units are

The Chicago Department of Housing published its interactive Affordable Requirements Ordinance dashboard today. The website shows where residential units have been built as a result of the City’s ARO law, in place since 2003.

The ARO is a form of inclusionary housing, a group of rules used in cities all over the country that require market-rate housing builders to provide affordable housing. In the ARO generally, the developer has to rent or sell 10 percent of the units in a project as affordable in exchange for a zoning change.

And it’s one of the many affordable housing funding programs that Chicago funds or tracks (in this case tracks). Read about the 19 other programs.

ARO units are one of the many types of affordable housing that Chicago tracks and lists in its affordable developments dataset that we recently added.

My favorite part about the dashboard is that DOH policy analyst Paul Williams said it’s going to be updated monthly, and eventually more frequently as it becomes automated. My second favorite part is that all of the data can be downloaded.

A screenshot of part of the dashboard showing the projects in the West Town community area that have an ARO contribution for affordable housing.

It’s easy to highlight a specific community area and see how many ARO units are (1) proposed, (2) approved by the DOH, (3) have been issued permits, or (4) are completed and accepting tenants.

The West Town community area has the second highest number of ARO units with 43 completed on-site units in nine projects. There are 88 on-site units under construction in 10 projects.

The analysis I’m interested in is how many ARO units are in TOD zones, areas within 1,320 feet (two blocks) of CTA and Metra stations and eligible bus route corridors. The residential project locations are aggregated to a block, so the analysis isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s good enough for this purpose.

These unit counts do not represent the full amount of affordable housing built because of the ARO. Many builders pay an in lieu fee that the city uses to construct or subsidize housing or pay rents for very low income households. In rare occasions, the developer will build their required units off-site. The dashboard has 362 projects in the four stages; we analyzed the 125 buildings that are under construction or completed.

How many on-site units are near transit?

Of the 54 completed residential projects in the ARO dashboard, 23 buildings, 42.6 percent, with 223 units are within one block of a CTA or Metra station; 37 buildings, 68.5 percent, with 364 units are within two blocks of a station.

The map shows the location of completed residential projects with on-site ARO units from transit: CTA and Metra stations and eligible bus route corridors. A project that’s under construction or complete is more likely to be within 2 blocks of transit (a station or eligible bus route corridor) than further away.

Of the same 54 completed locations, 16 buildings, 29.6 percent, with 122 units are within one block of an eligible bus route corridor; 26 buildings, 48.1 percent, with 159 units are within two blocks of one of the eligible bus route corridors. These groups of 16 and 26 buildings may also be near a CTA or Metra station, so there is some double counting of units.

These bus route corridors were added to the Chicago TOD ordinance in January 2019 and effectively doubled the area of Chicago in a TOD zone.

In total, there are 407 completed ARO units in 45 buildings within two blocks of a CTA or Metra station or eligible bus route corridor.

How many on-site units will soon be near transit?

Of the 71 under construction residential projects in the ARO dashboard, 12 buildings, 16.9 percent, with 51 units are within one block of a CTA or Metra station; 32 buildings, 45.1 percent, with 306 are within two blocks.

Of the same 71 locations under construction, 14 buildings, 19.7 percent, with 155 units are within one block of an eligible bus route corridor; 24 buildings, 32.4 percent, with 210 units are within two blocks.


Where the ARO units are was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


The Illinois law that legalizes recreational marijuana cultivation and sales establishes “disproportionately impacted areas” (DIA). These are places across the state where there has been a high rate of people being incarcerated for violating anti-marijuana laws and have high poverty or unemployment. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) published the DIAs this month.

In the process to apply for a dispensary license, people can earn extra points in the review of their applications for being a “Social Equity Applicant” (see the Cannabis Regulation & Tax Act and the application instructions). One of the qualifying criteria is that the applicant has lived in a DIA for a minimum period of time. Another is that at least half of the applicant’s future 10+ person staff reside in DIAs.

I compared the DIAs — which use Census tract boundaries — to the Chicago ward boundaries to help readers and customers understand where these areas are. Additionally, since the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund program rules were tweaked to allow the City of Chicago to offer grants to cannabis business establishments, I’ve created a map showing where those areas overlap.

Map shows the 50 Chicago wards and how they overlap with State of Illinois-designated Disproportionately Impacted Areas.

DIAs + Chicago Wards

The following ten Chicago wards are entirely overlapping with Disproportionately Impacted Areas (each link opens a map of the ward):

The 42nd Ward is functionally one of the six wards with no Disproportionately Impacted Areas.

An additional 13 wards are majority in a DIA: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, and the 29th Wards.

Six wards have no overlap with DIAs (30th, 33rd, 42nd, 43rd, 44th, and the 47th Wards). The 42nd Ward functionally has no DIAs even though it overlaps a tiny bit with a DIA (see map).

DIAs + Neighborhood Opportunity Fund areas

The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) is a grant program for small businesses on the South and West Sides in the NOF investment areas. NOF is funded by payments made according to the Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus (NOB) program, which allows developers to purchase additional building density in the downtown area.

There is a lot of overlap between the Disproportionately Impacted Areas and the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund investment areas.

Eighty percent of the NOB proceeds go to the NOF; ten percent goes to a local improvements fund, which can also be in kind (when approved by city planners, the developer pays their own contractor for an improvement to a street, park, or library); ten percent goes to stabilize or renovate landmarked buildings.

Yesterday, Mayor Lightfoot announced changes to the NOF grant program, which include being able to give grants to potential cannabis businesses.

Another important change is funding startup costs “like appraisals, environmental surveys and architectural services”. Previously, the NOF program wouldn’t grant any money upfront; the small business owner had to raise money on their own and get reimbursed by NOF later.

Chicago Cityscape has an exclusive site locator map for people who want to open a cannabis business establishment. It shows the relevant public and private schools and their 500 foot buffers, existing medical dispensaries, Chicago’s seven cannabis districts, the DIAs, and more.

Need personalized site selection help? Contact MAP Strategies.


Where are the cannabis disproportionately impacted areas? was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


The City of Chicago supports the construction and maintenance of affordable housing through direct funding, financing, and regulations — that’s “Affordable housing” with a capital “A” because there are rules that define what kind of rental and sale prices constitute affordable. The Chicago Department of Housing tracks the location of these affordable dwelling units and recently enhanced their version of the data on the City’s data portal.

We’ve also integrated that improved dataset of affordable apartment buildings across Chicago Cityscape.

Screenshot of a map showing the location of affordable housing developments in part of Humboldt Park.
Look up the Humboldt Park community area, for example, to find the location of 36 affordable housing developments that the Chicago Department of Housing tracks with a total of 846 affordable dwelling units.

Recently, the City added the location of residential units that were constructed by property owners to comply with the Affordable Requirements Ordinance, or ARO, which added about 200 more buildings to the dataset.

The ARO, generally, requires that builders set aside 10 percent of the new or added units as Affordable for 30 years if the builder receives a zoning change in order to build or add 10 or more units.

The location of ARO and units funded through other means (like the Low Income Housing Trust Fund or TIF) is important to track compliance over the duration of the funding for those residences, and to help residents find known affordable housing. Naturally occurring affordable housing’s location isn’t tracked by any local organization officially, except when it’s disappearing.

How to find affordable housing on Chicago Cityscape

There are two ways to use Chicago Cityscape to find the location of the affordable that the Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) tracks:

  1. Look up an address and find developments within a couple of blocks.
  2. Look up a Place and find all of the developments within that Place. Places include community areas, voting precincts, Census tracts, wards, TIF districts, and dozens of other types.

Cityscape Pro members and those who’ve purchased the relevant Address Snapshot report are able to download the data as a map or spreadsheet file.

There’s also small “a” affordable housing which is unsubsidized housing that’s affordable and attainable; sometimes called naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH). This kind of housing isn’t tracked and data that can be used to analyze where it exists is often a year or two delayed, which may not be useful to people looking for places to live. The data is useful to track which places are becoming less affordable, something the Institute of Housing Studies does well.

Ways to fund affordable housing in Chicago

Not all of the funding mechanisms listed below include City money, but the Department of Housing can assist housing developers navigate the complicated financial options. The list was derived from the most recent quarterly housing plan update.

  • Tax Increment Financing (TIF); this is geographically based
  • Loans
  • Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)
  • Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit (IAHTC); any organization that owes an Illinois income tax can make a donation to an affordable housing project in exchange for a tax credit worth half the donation
  • Multi-family housing revenue bonds; tax-exempt bonds are sold on behalf of housing developers at a low interest rate
  • Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund (LIHTF)
  • Troubled Buildings Initiative (TBI)
  • TIF Neighborhood Improvement Program
  • Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative
  • Neighborhood Lending Program; downpayment and closing cost assistance administered by Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS)
  • Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund (AHOF) and Multi-year Affordability through Upfront Investment (MAUI)
  • Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO

Use Chicago Cityscape to find affordable housing developments was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


At Chicago’s first cannabis zoning meeting on Tuesday, October 8, at Malcolm X College (the first of three), four people offered comments and criticism of the City’s proposal to exclude a large swath of the Central Business District from hosting pot dispensaries. (Read the proposed zoning rules.)

Paul Stewart is standing at the lectern at Tuesday’s meeting. Alder Tom Tunney, Zoning Administrator Patrick Murphey, and Zoning committee aide Nicole Wellhausen are seated.

The city’s reasoning, said Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar to the Chicago Tribune, was “From a public safety standpoint as the industry develops, it was best to exclude that from operations. But there’s plenty of areas within a short walk of the area.”

Other reasons cited at the meeting included the density of tourists, traffic congestion, and non-specific security concerns.

The objectors’ comments included:

  • Bryen Yunashko, who is deaf and blind, said that downtown was the most accessible part of Chicago for people with disabilities and dispensaries in downtown would be the easiest for the people he knows to acquire product. Paul Stewart, a mayoral policy advisor, responded that not all of downtown is excluded. (Note that all CTA stations in the Loop — elevated and subway — are in the exclusion zone. Additionally, the busy Merchandise Mart, Chicago-Brown and Chicago-Red, and Grand stations are in the proposed exclusion zone. Ogilvie and Union Stations are not in the downtown exclusion zone, but the Millennium and LaSalle Stations are in the exclusion zone.) Read more of Yunashko’s comments in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Map of proposed downtown exclusion zone for cannabis dispensaries.
  • An attendee asked for the rationale to be explained, mentioning that there are seven liquor stores and “countless bars and restaurants”. Paul Stewart responded that the City considered traffic patterns, congestion, tourism, and security. Alder Tom Tunney (46th Ward) said he doesn’t speak for Mayor Lightfoot, and that it’s about spreading the dispensaries around the city.
  • Mike Malcolm stood up to say that some companies can afford the high rent prices in the downtown exclusion zone and pushing them out to open dispensaries outside of downtown could have negative economic effects for individuals and small businesses that don’t want to open downtown. (Mike Malcolm)
  • Another attendee said that the securest place in the city is downtown, likely implying that the downtown is an ideal place for a business type that has elevated security requirements.

Why not allow cannabis dispensaries downtown? 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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