Chicago Cityscape Blog https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog The official blog of Chicago Cityscape en-US 60 <![CDATA[Use new Cityscape tools to grow your ADU business]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/use-chicago-cityscape-to-grow-your-adu-business-f2ad2e0324 Better days are comin’ (video from the Biden-Harris inauguration concert last night, Ant Clemons & Justin Timberlake)

You know that Chicago Cityscape is a big proponent of 🏘 accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and a clearinghouse for information. We’re excited that City Council re-legalized interior ADUs and backyard houses (which the ordinance officially calls “conversion units” and “coach houses”, respectively) last month. And by the way, there are one hundred days until ADU...

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Better days are comin’ (video from the Biden-Harris inauguration concert last night, Ant Clemons & Justin Timberlake)

You know that Chicago Cityscape is a big proponent of 🏘 accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and a clearinghouse for information. We’re excited that City Council re-legalized interior ADUs and backyard houses (which the ordinance officially calls “conversion units” and “coach houses”, respectively) last month. And by the way, there are one hundred days until ADU permit applications are accepted.

We’ve sprinkled two new ADU features across the website, and updated our ADU Service Provider directory with a new class of consultants.

1. Address lookup

Everyone can look up at least one Chicago address per day and get a yes/no determination on if an ADU is allowed at the address.

A screenshot showing how Chicago Cityscape indicates if a property is eligible to have an ADU.

People with Cityscape memberships (any level) are able to look up more than one address per day. For non-members, Address Snapshots are also available Ă  la carte with one-time purchases, which unlocks a ton of data about that property.

2. Find 1,000s of eligible properties

We have upgraded our Place-based Property Finder maps to have ADU filters to find the thousands of eligible properties in any of the five pilot areas. Start with a Place you’re familiar with, like a community area, neighborhood, or ZIP code and the filter will find just the properties that are also in the pilot area and an eligible zoning district.

Here are a couple of ways I imagine the Place-based Property Finder maps can be used:

  1. Download a list of the eligible properties and send everyone a postcard advising them that their property is eligible and to contact you for a consultation.
  2. Use the list to compare to your client list to send a postcard to just your clients advising them that their property is eligible.

Place-based Property Finder maps are available to Cityscape Pro members and those who purchase a Place. For example, one could purchase the West pilot area Place right here.

The boundaries of the 24th Ward are shown in blue, and properties that are eligible to add an interior ADU. The stark and invisible line along Homan Avenue is where the West ADU pilot area lies.

In the 24th Ward, there are approximately 5,148 properties that are eligible to add an interior ADU, which is about 43 percent of the properties in the ward, and more than we can show at one time! (That number doesn’t include properties that are owned by non-profits, including faith-based organizations and affordable housing operators.)

3. Aging in place

“Aging in place” means “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level” (Centers for Disease Control via AARP). A couple important factors to remain in one’s home are being able to adapt the home to changing personal needs as one ages, and generating income to pay for ongoing maintenance, and an increase in property taxes.

We’ve highlighted two examples of aging in place: Carmin wants to build a backyard house for her family in Roscoe Village to have more space, as her parents moved in right before the pandemic started; Sharon owns a single-unit house and wants to build a backyard house for herself to live in during retirement while renting out the front house.

ADUs, and especially ground-level backyard houses, can address those factors, and there are now consultants to help families integrate ADUs with their current and future needs. So, anew addition to the ADU Service Provider list are two “Certified Aging in Place Specialists”.

Felice Eckhouse is one of those specialists. I met Felice at a City Open Workshop event during the time we spent eight months educating each other about ADU policies.

Felice says, “I have evaluated countless clients who wish to age in place in their homes and community. We see how this pandemic emphasizes the need for healthy homes, for safe multigenerational spaces to function across our lifespan. I am this experienced therapist who looks forward to collaborating and partnering with you as a team on these various ADU projects. My value will be felt using my extensive training in accessible, visitable, universally designed, and affordable spaces.”

There is no charge to be listed in ADU Service Providers. Please contact us and explain your relevant experience.


Use Chicago Cityscape to grow your ADU business 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/use-chicago-cityscape-to-grow-your-adu-business-f2ad2e0324 Tue, 19 Jan 2021 18:02:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Cityscape maps updated to reflect new Illinois legislators]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/cityscape-maps-updated-to-reflect-new-illinois-legislators-32a9e200ef Chicago Cityscape strives to have the most recent and accurate information. We have tens of thousands of “Places”. Locally, in Chicago, that means Ward boundaries, community areas, neighborhood and business organizations, and INVEST South/West corridors, among others. Additionally, we have TIF districts and Enterprise Zones across the region to help people find development and financial incentives.

Across Illinois, however, we have the 18 Congressional districts, 59 state senate...

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Chicago Cityscape strives to have the most recent and accurate information. We have tens of thousands of “Places”. Locally, in Chicago, that means Ward boundaries, community areas, neighborhood and business organizations, and INVEST South/West corridors, among others. Additionally, we have TIF districts and Enterprise Zones across the region to help people find development and financial incentives.

Across Illinois, however, we have the 18 Congressional districts, 59 state senate districts, and 118 state house districts. And we just updated 19 of the legislators based on resignations and new elections.

Maps of Chicagoland (left) and downstate Illinois (right) showing the Congressional and state house and state senate districts with new legislators. Click on the map to view and download the full size version.

Here’s the rundown:

Congress

Illinois Senate

  • 20th: Cristina Pacione-Zayas, sworn in on 12/31/20 (previously held by Iris Martinez, who was elected the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County in November 2020)
  • 30th: Adriane Johnson, 10/11/20 (Terry Link)
  • 44th: Marked vacant, as of January 1, 2021 (the chairpersons of the five counties overlapping this district will have to pick a replacement: McLean, Menard, Sangamon, Tazewell, Logan)

Illinois House

Ballotpedia was essential to Cityscape to know who was elected.


Cityscape maps updated to reflect new Illinois legislators 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/cityscape-maps-updated-to-reflect-new-illinois-legislators-32a9e200ef Thu, 14 Jan 2021 16:40:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Outside the Loop radio shows talks about backyard houses with Chicago Cityscape]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/outside-the-loop-radio-shows-talks-about-backyard-houses-with-chicago-cityscape-cb3ae1452e Outside the Loop radio host Mike Stephen and I talked about Chicago’s ADU ordinance on the Saturday, December 26, 2020, episode.

‎Outside the Loop RADIO: OTL #741: Legal coach houses in Chicago, COVID-19 in IL prisons, The pandemic's impact on housing on Apple Podcasts

We talked about the history of backyard houses in Chicago, the process to re-legalize them, and what people can build soon (permit applications will be accepted starting May 1, 2021.)

Here’s the episode...

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Outside the Loop radio host Mike Stephen and I talked about Chicago’s ADU ordinance on the Saturday, December 26, 2020, episode.

‎Outside the Loop RADIO: OTL #741: Legal coach houses in Chicago, COVID-19 in IL prisons, The pandemic's impact on housing on Apple Podcasts

We talked about the history of backyard houses in Chicago, the process to re-legalize them, and what people can build soon (permit applications will be accepted starting May 1, 2021.)

Here’s the episode summary — the show was about housing and shelter. The ADU conversation was first (skip to the 8 minute mark).

Mike Stephen learns about a new city ordinance legalizing coach houses with Chicago Cityscape founder & CEO Steven Vance, discusses the impact of COVID-19 in state prisons with Illinois Prison Project executive director Jennifer Soble, and explores the pandemic’s impact on housing with Geoff Smith of the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University. And in the OTL Wrap Party segment, Mike and Producer Collin reflect on the show and offer some takeaways. The local pandemic tunez come from Phillip Otto.

Mike: “I’m so interested in coach houses, I think they’re so cool. If you walk in the alleys of Chicago, and you check out what’s going on in the back yards, it’s a cool network or patchwork of a community. The coach houses, I always thought, were a neat part of that. I didn’t know it was illegal to be rocking the coach houses. But it’s coming back!” (this is paraphrased)

Collin (producer): “I thought the notion of students or kids coming back to live with their parents was very interesting. During COVID, we’ve seen a lot of college students moving back with their parents. It’s not a big part of our American history, when you’re 18 you leave.” (this is paraphrased)


Outside the Loop radio shows talks about backyard houses with Chicago Cityscape 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/outside-the-loop-radio-shows-talks-about-backyard-houses-with-chicago-cityscape-cb3ae1452e Sat, 02 Jan 2021 12:24:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Cityscape’s Top 12 stories of 2020]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/cityscape-s-top-12-stories-of-2020-cf76885cd1 The theme of 🏘 accessory dwelling units dominated the year. I’m looking forward to seeing what backyard house designs are built, how many vacant lots are developed with backyard houses, and how many basement units are upgraded or “legalized”.

January 2020

Let’s keep ADUs in the news

We kept track of all the press about accessory dwelling units in Chicago. And we helped out journalists with quotes and data. The mission to “keep ADUs in the news” will continue...]]> The theme of 🏘 accessory dwelling units dominated the year. I’m looking forward to seeing what backyard house designs are built, how many vacant lots are developed with backyard houses, and how many basement units are upgraded or “legalized”.

January 2020

Let’s keep ADUs in the news

We kept track of all the press about accessory dwelling units in Chicago. And we helped out journalists with quotes and data. The mission to “keep ADUs in the news” will continue through 2021.

February 2020

The one Chicago guidebook you need to read this year

“The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook”, my favorite book about Chicago. Photo by someone who I convinced to buy a copy during our lunch.

I kept riding the bus to work in order to keep reading “The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook”, edited by Martha Bayne, even if the roads were clear of snow and I could have biked to work.

I love reading about places and locations in Chicago that I know. I like reading about the businesses I never got to patronize before they closed down, and I look forward to spontaneously visiting the blocks and parks I haven’t seen.

The relevant theme, though, and why I’m sharing my enthusiasm for the Guidebook, is how every story includes some bit about real estate. Little of the stories within the articles are about real estate, but the collection of references to houses, buildings, building styles, blocks, corners, businesses, and institutions make it difficult to not think about who contributes to how a neighborhood changes and develops.

March 2020

New data: How many Airbnbs are in your neighborhood

Using data from a third-party Airbnb tracking service, we added a map of Airbnbs to our Place Snapshot. Look up a community area or ward and see approximately the quantity of short-term and vacation rental housing.

However, the blog post was popular but the functionality hasn’t been used much, so we haven’t updated or improved it.

P.S. March was also our sixth birthday. That blog post wasn’t that popular.

April 2020

Prefab “starter home” is under construction, destined for a vacant lot in Back of the Yards

Kinexx Modular Construction started building a modular and prefabricated house at their warehouse near the border of Chicago. We followed that story through to its assembly on-site, and then later a tour.

May 2020

Chicago’s ADU ordinance was introduced — see what you could build

We published an FAQ explaining what kinds and sizes and locations of interior ADUs and coach houses (what this blog now call backyard houses).

I guess the blog took a vacation in June so December gets two posts.

July 2020

Chicago’s ADU ordinance gets a hearing date

In this blog post, we analyzed what properties the ADU ordinance would and wouldn’t allow to have an interior ADU or backyard house. Now that the ordinance has been adopted (in December), all of that analysis is moot.

August 2020

The modular “starter house” in Back of the Yards was assembled

Like I said in April, we follow the progress of this prefabricated and modular house. The Resurrection Project (TRP) is the buyer of the house designed and built by Kinexx Modular Construction.

The house has a living room, and a combined kitchen+dining room. It has three bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, plus a backyard and a two-car parking pad.

September 2020

Commentary: “My parents live with me and my children, and I want an ADU, but the RS-2 exclusion prevents me”

In the ADU ordinance proposed in May, property owners in RS-1 and RS-2 zoning districts would have to jump through additional and costly hoops to be able to build an interior ADU or backyard house. This would have the opposite intention of the policy to allow people to build an extra unit in their own home, and in Carmin’s case it was necessary because her parents lived at home and the family needed more space.

Thankfully, the adopted ordinance got rid of these hoops for property owners in RS-2. As for RS-1, no ADUs are allowed, and there are no exceptions.

October 2020

Is COVID-19 affecting Chicago building permits? 😟

The short answer of COVID-19’s impact on building permits, based purely on the rate of building permits issued, is it’s hard to tell. That’s because the rate of issuing building permits for new construction in Chicago declined by 1.5 percent from 2017 to 2018, by 10.4 percent from 2018 to 2019, and we don’t have enough information to know if would have continued through 2020. (So far, though, the decline is 44.7 percent from 2019 to 2020.)

November 2020

Chicago readies two North Lawndale sites for sale and redevelopment

4300 W Roosevelt Rd has two lots that total nearly 21 acres of vacant and “complicated” lots.

Chicago’s planning department continues to roll out new Requests For Proposals for redeveloping city-owned land in the INVEST South/West areas. On Monday, City Hall planners dropped four new RFPs for lots with a mixture of city-owned and private property in New City, Bronzeville, South Chicago, and North Lawndale.

December 2020

Take a tour: Chicago’s first modular house is move-in ready

“Josh and Paul opened the tour by describing how they believe the modular house doesn’t look like a modular house. I agree — it’s next to impossible to see clues that the house was built from eight pieces assembled at an offsite warehouse near the southwest border of Chicago.”

Chicago will allow ADUs starting in May — Read our new FAQ

The ADU ordinance was adopted on December 16, 2020, and the first building permit applications for an interior unit or backyard house can be submitted on May 1, 2021. Since that’s a Saturday, review and issuance may have to wait until May 3.


Cityscape’s Top 12 stories of 2020 was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/cityscape-s-top-12-stories-of-2020-cf76885cd1 Wed, 23 Dec 2020 17:45:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Chicago’s ADU ordinance explained in a 4-minute video]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-s-adu-ordinance-explained-in-a-4-minute-video-2378c3430f In which I attempt to explain the most salient parts of the recently-adopted accessory dwelling unit ordinance in under four minutes.

https://medium.com/media/75c1f295defed4cdb9e80cbfd7623b77/href

I’ve outlined the video content below.

  • City Council has re-legalized accessory dwelling units
  • These are commonly known as coach houses, basement and attic apartments, granny flats, and so many other names across the country.
  • Quick timeline of City Council (May 2020, July 2020, December 2020)
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In which I attempt to explain the most salient parts of the recently-adopted accessory dwelling unit ordinance in under four minutes.

https://medium.com/media/75c1f295defed4cdb9e80cbfd7623b77/href

I’ve outlined the video content below.

  • City Council has re-legalized accessory dwelling units
  • These are commonly known as coach houses, basement and attic apartments, granny flats, and so many other names across the country.
  • Quick timeline of City Council (May 2020, July 2020, December 2020)
  • Allowed in 5 pilot areas (North, Northwest, West, South, Southeast); within those, it includes all R zones, except RS-1.
  • If a house has 1-4 units, can have a backyard house or an interior ADU; city ordinance calls them coach house and conversion units, respectively
  • If a building has 5 units or more, cannot have a backyard house, but can have 2 or more interior ADUs; Can increase the number of units by 33%. A 12-unit courtyard apartment building can add 4 units.
  • When adding 2 or more interior units, every 2nd unit must be affordable
  • For adding interior units, buildings must be 20 years or older.
  • No additional parking is required
  • Backyard houses do not conflict with FAR and minimum lot area per unit rules
Left to right: A concept for a backyard house with a large front garden (Booth Hansen); expanding an 8-unit building with 2 basement units (Civic Projects); building a backyard house above a garage (LEVEL).
  • Interior ADUs do not conflict with minimum lot area per unit rules, but FAR is still applicable if the building is getting an addition (up, rear, or side) to accommodate the interior ADU. These are rules your architect needs to know.
  • Vacant lots can be developed with a backyard house prior to a principal house
  • No short-term stays or vacation rental is allowed in the ADUs
  • The pilot areas have two rulesets. The north and northwest areas have the default rules, as I just described them, while West, South, and Southeast areas have different rules.
  • Vacant lots are excluded (W, S, SE)
  • Buildings with 1–3 units must be owner-occupied in order to add a backyard house or interior ADU (W, S, SE)
  • Only 2 permits for backyard houses and interior ADUs can be issued per block per year. A block is both sides of the street between two intersecting streets. (W, S, SE)
  • You can learn more on Chicago Cityscape, where we have a section dedicated to learning more about ADUs. You can look up your address to see if it’s eligible. We also have an ADU service provider directory that lists architects, contractors, and manufacturers. (W, S, SE)
  • Send pictures when you’re building your ADU!

Read the full ADU FAQ.


Chicago’s ADU ordinance explained in a 4-minute video 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-s-adu-ordinance-explained-in-a-4-minute-video-2378c3430f Mon, 21 Dec 2020 22:20:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Chicago will allow ADUs starting in May — Read our FAQ]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-will-allow-adus-starting-in-may-read-our-faq-c44b989ccb Chicago will allow ADUs starting in May — Read our FAQ

The joint committee on Housing and Zoning heard a revised ADU ordinance on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. The “substitute” ordinance was adopted on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, by a vote of 22 to 1 (15th Ward Alder Raymond Lopez voted against).

This is a new FAQ, but I recommend that you open the May 2020 FAQ in another tab as this FAQ tends to avoid repeating regulations that didn’t change. Additionally, we have a new ADU...

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Chicago will allow ADUs starting in May — Read our FAQ

The joint committee on Housing and Zoning heard a revised ADU ordinance on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. The “substitute” ordinance was adopted on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, by a vote of 22 to 1 (15th Ward Alder Raymond Lopez voted against).

This is a new FAQ, but I recommend that you open the May 2020 FAQ in another tab as this FAQ tends to avoid repeating regulations that didn’t change. Additionally, we have a new ADU portal and explainer video.

  1. Where can I download the adopted ordinance?

The ordinance is O2020–2850. Get it from the City Clerk’s website, but download the SO2020–2850 file (to get the substituted ordinance).

2. When can the first ADUs be permitted?

Building permit applications can be submitted as soon as May 1, 2021.

For those property owners who use a self-certified architect to design their ADU, a permit could be issued within a couple of days. Ask your architect if they’re “self-certified” with the Chicago Department of Buildings.

Alder Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) showed off the backyard house where he lives while speaking during Tuesday’s hearing; two maybe-compliant backyard houses in Humboldt Park, just outside of the Northwest pilot area.

3. Where will ADUs be allowed?

The revised ordinance will allow backyard houses and interior ADUs in RS-2, RS-3, RT-3.5, RT-4, RM-5, RM-5.5, RM-6, and RM-6.5 zoning districts. No ADUs will be allowed in RS-1, and there is no zoning relief for this.

The property must also be within one of the five pilot areas, officially called “Additional Dwelling Unit-Allowed Areas”.

Look up your address on Chicago Cityscape to see if your property is in the right zoning district ↔️ pilot area combination.

4. How many ADUs can I build on a property?

A chart showing the number of ADUs that can be built.

If a building has 1 to 4 units, it can have a backyard house or an interior ADU. If it has 5 or more units, it can have at least two interior ADUs; backyard houses are not allowed at buildings with 5 or more units.

The original proposal that a building can add 33 percent units as interior ADUs, and that it has to be 20 years old or older, has not changed.

The chart breaks down the number of units for each size of residential building. (The chart was adapted from a Chicago Department of Housing presentation to City Council.)

5. What are the affordability requirements?

The affordability and registration requirements have not changed; see the May 2020 FAQ. Generally, half of the interior ADUs added have to be rented at affordable rates set by the Chicago Department of Housing annually.

6. Are there additional regulations specific to some of the pilot areas?

Yes. The West, South, and Southeast areas are in a group that has additional regulations.

  • Vacant lots cannot be developed with a backyard house before a principal house is built.
  • Buildings with 1-3 units must be owner-occupied in order to have a backyard house or an interior ADU.
  • No more than two ADU permits can be issued per block (both sides of the street between intersecting streets) per year.

7. How big of an ADU can I build?

The bulk and density standards for backyard houses and interior ADUs hasn’t changed; see the May 2020 FAQ.

8. Who can design or build an ADU for me?

A lot of people and companies have added themselves to the Chicago Cityscape ADU Service Provider directory.

9. Can I build a ground level garage and a separate ground level backyard house?

Maybe. A new regulation was added to the revised ordinance saying that “the combination of all accessory buildings may not occupy more than 60% of the area of a required rear setback.” Both a garage and a backyard house are accessory buildings. The previous version didn’t have this regulation.

10. Is the parking requirement in RS districts still being reduced to 1?

No. This section was removed in the revised ordinance. Keeping the current off-street car parking requirement in RS districts at 2 will make it a bit more difficult to use ground level space for a backyard house in order to continue accommodating the 2 car parking spaces.

The original proposal reduced the requirement to 1, allowing homeowners to reduce the number of spaces from 2 to 1 and using that extra ground level space to build the backyard house.

11. Do I have to tell my neighbors that I’m building an ADU?

Yes, and this is a new regulation. “Prior to issuance of a building permit…the permit applicant must provide written notice to abutting property owners and to the local alderman.”

12. Are solar panels allowed?

Yes. Solar panels are allowed on accessory structures, including backyard houses, but they cannot exceed the 22' height limit above grade for rooftop features, and there is no relief for this like there is for garages.

Make sure you tell your architect your desire to have solar panels so they can design a spot where the panels won’t exceed 22' above grade.

13. It seems like a bunch of regulations haven’t changed, what else is there?

  • ADUs permitted through the ADU ordinance (in contrast to being permitted after a zoning change) cannot be used for vacation rental or shared housing.
  • A property cannot have both a backyard house and an interior ADU permitted through this ADU ordinance. Not all property owners need to use the ADU ordinance to build an additional unit; one of Chicago Cityscape’s Property Finder maps shows thousands of properties that don’t have as many units as their zoning district and lot size allow.
  • A backyard house cannot be built on a property with more than four units.
  • The side separation requirement is still 3', clear from the ground to the sky, on one side.
  • Minimum lot area per unit standards don’t apply.
  • Floor area ratio (FAR): If expanding a building to accommodate an interior ADU, FAR limitations applies. FAR also applies to non-conforming buildings. For example, if there’s a three-flat in an RS-3, it likely exceeds the allowable FAR of RS-3 zoned lots, and thus is non-conforming. Adding an interior unit may not change the current FAR but non-conforming buildings are not allowed to increase the extent of non-conformity, as adding a unit in RS-3 would do. Another example: Single-unit houses on RS-3 lots may be at the maximum FAR and thus the ADU ordinance compliance route would mean subdividing the house.

14. What can I do if my property is in the right zoning district but outside a pilot area?

Contact your alder and tell them what your housing needs and goals are.

Plus, there might be another way, depending on your lot’s size and zoning district. Read this blog post if your property is in an RS-3 zoning district. If it’s in another zoning district, contact an architect or Chicago Cityscape to get a zoning assessment and customized strategy.


Chicago will allow ADUs starting in May — Read our FAQ 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-will-allow-adus-starting-in-may-read-our-faq-c44b989ccb Tue, 15 Dec 2020 16:05:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[City Council to review revised ADU ordinance to apply in pilot areas only]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/city-council-to-review-revised-adu-ordinance-to-apply-in-pilot-areas-only-9143ad0b20 City Council will review revised ADU ordinance to apply in pilot areas only

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...

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City Council will review revised ADU ordinance to apply in pilot areas only

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 revision would make ADUs an “as of right” option for people (like Carmin) who have property in RS-2 zoning districts, expanding the eligibility area. Excluding property owners in RS-1 and RS-2 zoning districts from the privilege of building housing for their own families was my primary concern. 🙌🏽
One great change is making RS-2 districts (in purple) equivalent to RS-3 and higher districts (in green), so that property owners in RS-2 will be able to build an ADU “as of right”.
  • Money from Chicago’s Low Income Housing Trust Fund (LIHTF)would be set aside to support the rents of very low income households to live in interior ADUs. This will guarantee reliable rent for the ADU owner. 😎
  • The Department of Housing will fund a grant program to subsidize the design and construction of interior ADUs for low to moderate income homeowners. 🥰 (Update: This would be funded by ARO in lieu fees.)

The bad

  • The option to build an ADU is completely taken away from those in RS-1 zoning districts; before, it would have been an option via the “special use” procedure at the Zoning Board of Appeals. (There are no RS-1 zoning districts in the pilot areas.)
  • The revision removes the ability to build a backyard house on a vacant lot prior to the construction of a principal house. Read more about this issue.
  • Residential-only buildings in B and C zoning districts are still not included.

The ugly is the patchwork of location rules

  • This map that has been drawn to include all or part of the wards represented by alders who support accessory dwelling units and to exclude the wards of those who don’t.
  • West, South, Southwest zones: Only two ADUs per block per year would be permitted. There are two block sizes in Chicago: 330 feet and 660 feet. This rule puts those on the longer blocks at a disadvantage because there is more competition. (I think this will add some bureaucracy, when the buildings and planning departments have to check which ADU building permit applications are in the review queue and who else on the same block is also applying for an ADU building permit — who gets the two permits when three people are applying for one?)
  • West, South zones: Backyard houses could only be built on owner-occupied properties.
This high-resolution map shows the 5 pilot areas. Click to enlarge to see street names. The legend lists which wards overlap the pilot areas. (Map created 12/12/2020, and updated 12/15/2020 to improve the boundaries of the North and South pilot areas based on new information.)

Several rules were reported to stay the same since May (read that FAQ):

  • Backyard houses and interior ADUs could only be built in R zoning districts.
  • A backyard house cannot be built on a property with an interior ADU
  • ADUs could not be listed on short term and vacation rental websites
  • Interior ADUs could only be added to buildings that are 20 years old or older
  • When building two or more interior ADUs half must be rented at an affordable price (capped at $1,100 for a one bedroom in a basement)
  • Bulk and density limitations are the same (700 s.f. maximum, 22 feet tall)

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.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/city-council-to-review-revised-adu-ordinance-to-apply-in-pilot-areas-only-9143ad0b20 Sat, 12 Dec 2020 00:52:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[A better ADU rule has the potential to build lower-cost houses on vacant land]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/a-better-adu-rule-has-the-potential-to-build-lower-cost-houses-on-vacant-land-af8c517e5f Update 12/15/2020: This post has been updated to correct that the revised ordinance’s change to disallowing vacant lots to have a backyard house before a principal house applies only in the West, South, and Southeast “pilot areas”. Read about the pilot areas in this post, and read about the just-adopted revision ordinance.

The revised ordinance that Chicago City Council will consider next week takes vacant lots out of the equation in three of the five pilot areas. It just so happens...

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Update 12/15/2020: This post has been updated to correct that the revised ordinance’s change to disallowing vacant lots to have a backyard house before a principal house applies only in the West, South, and Southeast “pilot areas”. Read about the pilot areas in this post, and read about the just-adopted revision ordinance.

The revised ordinance that Chicago City Council will consider next week takes vacant lots out of the equation in three of the five pilot areas. It just so happens that the West, South, and Southeast pilot areas where developing backyard houses on vacant lots doesn’t apply are the pilot areas with the most vacant lots.

A map of Chicago showing vacant lots in RS-2 and higher R zoning districts in the three pilot areas where the revised ADU ordinance prohibits building a backyard house on a vacant lot.

The original proposal, from May 2020, would have allowed a backyard house to be built on a vacant land before a principal house. Inexpensive vacant lots and the lower cost of construction to build a smaller house is a way to build new construction housing quickly and sell at price points that more people can attain.

Dropping vacant lots from Chicago’s first ADU policy in three pilot areas puts a damper on an idea that the people at LEVEL, an architecture firm, had to develop empty land called “Build the coach house first”. The company created nice-looking renderings and a scenario and financial outlook to match.

Images from LEVEL’s “Build the coach house first” proposal (left to right): Construction staging via the alley; the evolution of the vacant lot + backyard house over time with a financial outlook; a close up view up a potential backyard house design.

I’ve excerpted part of the story here, but you should read the whole post to visualize how a new family can start with a vacant lot and create long-term housing for them as they grow, adapting to each change in their family size and style.

[John and Maria have recently married and have a lot of student loan debt.] They decide to buy an empty lot [in Bronzeville] and build a coach house first using apprenticed construction labor — the $175,000 investment requires a downpayment of $6,125. On Day 1 of residence in their finished home, John and Maria live on the second-floor while renting the first-floor apartment to IIT students. Several years go by, and they have finally saved enough to build a single family house in front of the coach house. They refinance their home, and are able to take advantage of the improvements they have made to the empty lot. While this obviously increases their mortgage, and their monthly payment, they also now have two apartments they can rent out.

The story continues about how an adult child moves out of the front house and into the backyard house, and then the reverse happens with the parents get older and the child starts their own family. Before you think that this is the imagination of people who are hellbent on densifying neighborhoods, believe that it’s already happening (although it’s more likely in Chicago that it’s happening in a three-flat that a senior family member bought 30 years ago, as backyard houses are a dwindling building type).

What I appreciate most about LEVEL’s work here is the simple images of how a rear house can be built and the potential finance structure to build it.

Is there a vacant lot near you for sale that would be a good starting place to build someone a new house for $175,000?

Look up any Chicago address on Chicago Cityscape to get its Address Snapshot report and see which ADU pilot area it’s in.


A better ADU rule has the potential to build lower-cost houses on vacant land 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/a-better-adu-rule-has-the-potential-to-build-lower-cost-houses-on-vacant-land-af8c517e5f Fri, 11 Dec 2020 20:03:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Take a tour: Chicago’s first modular house is move-in ready]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/take-a-tour-chicago-s-first-modular-house-is-move-in-ready-a7f1e33132 Take a tour: Chicago modular house is move-in ready

Correction 12/8/20: The first modular house in Chicago was the “C3” in West Town designed by Square Root Architecture and built in a factory in Indiana. It was permitted and assembled in 2010. The Kinexx modular house is the first built in Chicagoland.

On Tuesday I visited Chicago’s first modular house at 4856 S Ada St in Back of the Yards for the second time this year. I first visited on August 24, when the eight modules were...

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Take a tour: Chicago modular house is move-in ready

Correction 12/8/20: The first modular house in Chicago was the “C3” in West Town designed by Square Root Architecture and built in a factory in Indiana. It was permitted and assembled in 2010. The Kinexx modular house is the first built in Chicagoland.

On Tuesday I visited Chicago’s first modular house at 4856 S Ada St in Back of the Yards for the second time this year. I first visited on August 24, when the eight modules were assembled in a day. This time was to get a tour of the finished house. Josh Braun and Paul Tebben are the founders of Kinexx Modular Construction, and co-developed the property with The Resurrection Project, an affordable housing developer.

Raul Raymundo is the CEO of The Resurrection Project, and is shown standing in front of Chicago’s first modular house in mid-November. Photo by Terrence Antonio James for Chicago Tribune.

Josh and Paul opened the tour by describing how they believe the modular house doesn’t look like a modular house. I agree — it’s next to impossible to see clues that the house was built from eight pieces assembled at an offsite warehouse near the southwest border of Chicago.

To recap, the house cost about $240,000 to construct. Most of the house was built offsite, including certain finishes like the floors and windows, while additional finishes like the doors and stair steps were finished onsite. It’s a two-story house with three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a living room, and a combined kitchen and dining room. I appreciated the common area storage closet on each floor and there’s additional storage in the attic.

Interior photos (clockwise, starting top left): Josh and Paul giving the tour, the pre-assembled staircase, kitchen and dining area, largest bedroom, and the staircase and upper floor landing. Photos by Steven Vance.

Making it look that way was important for two reasons, they said: To avoid stigmas and perceptions associated with manufactured housing (which isn’t allowed in Chicago except for the homes at Harbor Point Estates). Secondly, it was stressed by city officials.

City of Chicago officials in the buildings and housing department appear to be fully supportive of the project. Last month, Josh and Paul gave a tour to several housing department staff. Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara gave me the following statement: “Solving the City’s affordable housing gap requires public and private partners to develop innovative solutions that increase housing choice for our residents. The Kinexx Modular Homes, which are built new in less than half the time of traditional new home construction, are one of the innovative solutions we are optimistic will help change the landscape for affordable homeownership across Chicago. I want to thank Kinexx for its commitment to Chicago and its residents and we look forward to this next stage of modular housing in Chicago.”

Chase bank is also supportive of the project, Crain’s reported today. The bank is giving $7.2 million to The Resurrection Project and its partners, which is expected “to finance construction of about 100 modular homes and renovation of about 50 existing structures”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Kinexx is receiving 100 orders; other builders could potentially be involved.

Chase has a lot to make up: “For every dollar JPMorgan Chase lent to residents of white neighborhoods, 2.4 cents went to people in majority-Black communities, WBEZ found.”, according to the Chicago Tribune, which also reported on Chase’s grant.

If you’re in a position like TRP and you need to find sites for new construction, or even existing buildings for renovation or reuse, Chicago Cityscape has the data and the tools to make it easy. Request a discovery or coaching call.

Exterior photos (from left to right): The front of the house on Ada St (by R.L.), the rear of the house after the fence was installed (provided by Kinexx), the side of the house and the vacant lot where version 2.0 will be built (by R.L.).

The house will eventually be sold, but it’s staying unoccupied for now to continue giving tours to people and organizations interested in working with Kinexx or buying their modular houses. When it comes time, TRP will be in charge of selling the house to the ultimate household, as Kinexx doesn’t sell directly to homebuyers.

Josh and Paul are working on the second version, which is planned to go on two sites, one next door on Ada St and one in North Lawndale. Version 2.0 will incorporate some design changes, including widening the house by two feet and thus expanding the floor area by about 200 s.f. That change was enabled by what they learned about creating the module frames and the specific transportation constraints. The new house designs will be built of 10 modules in a 5x1 pattern on each floor, where the current design has eight modules in a 2x2 pattern on each floor.

Construction on those version 2.0 houses — again, in the warehouse — will start the first week of January 2021. We’ll tell you where they’re going when the houses are permitted. In the meantime, check out the house on video.


Take a tour: Chicago’s first modular house is move-in ready 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/take-a-tour-chicago-s-first-modular-house-is-move-in-ready-a7f1e33132 Thu, 03 Dec 2020 17:05:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Chicago prepares a deconversion ban near the 606]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-prepares-a-deconversion-ban-near-the-606-3fb47c0628 Map of the affected area

The Daily Line reported on a new ordinance that the Chicago Department of Housing intends to propose that would ban deconversions on many blocks near the Bloomingdale Trail west of California. A deconversion is the change of a multi-unit house to a single-unit house. It is a practice rampant on the North Side of Chicago, and it has led to the loss of tens of thousands of unsubsidized and relatively affordable housing.

The ordinance is not yet introduced, so I’m...

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Map of the affected area

The Daily Line reported on a new ordinance that the Chicago Department of Housing intends to propose that would ban deconversions on many blocks near the Bloomingdale Trail west of California. A deconversion is the change of a multi-unit house to a single-unit house. It is a practice rampant on the North Side of Chicago, and it has led to the loss of tens of thousands of unsubsidized and relatively affordable housing.

The ordinance is not yet introduced, so I’m making these maps based on what was reported.

As reported by Alex Nitkin, “In single-family zoning districts in the 606 area, the ordinance would only allow the construction of single-family homes on blocks where detached homes make up the majority of buildings”. In other words, the zoning ordinance would set a minimum density for the number of units on a property.

Minimum densities don’t exist in Chicago [1], but they should, at a minimum, exist around train stations and the bus corridors identified in the zoning code.

The area, shown on the map below, is bounded Armitage, California, North, Kedzie, Hirsch and Kostner. It is approximately 1.4 square miles in area and about 63.4 percent of the zoned land allows only single-unit, detached residences — despite what kind of building is currently there.

Map: Green areas are zoned for single-family-only. Every parcel shown is a multi-unit apartment or condo building. The proposal would block deconversions on blocks that have majority multi-unit buildings.

How to read the map

The map shows only parcels with multi-family buildings (two-flats and larger). Whichever block has a majority of its parcels shown [2], then deconversions would not be allowed on that block, and new construction single-unit houses wouldn’t be allowed.

It takes a minute to figure out how to find the blocks that would be protected from having deconversions: There are many supermajority [3] multi-unit blocks across the area. Check out the northwest corner by Armitage and Kostner, and the 1900 blocks of Kimball and Spaulding; look for several blocks of Karlov west of the north-south railroad tracks.

A map of all of the DC-12 and DC-16 zoning districts in Chicago, the only zoning districts that do not allow single-unit detached houses.

Notes

[1] Okay, there’s one place where there’s a minimum density: the “Downtown Core” zoning district doesn’t allow single-unit detached houses; the minimum density would be a single-unit above a ground floor commercial space. See 17-4-0207 in the Chicago zoning code.

[2] I don’t have a quick GIS method to find the blocks where the majority of properties are detached houses, but it’s somewhat simple to find these blocks visually. Additionally, I don’t have a copy of the ordinance so this map may be imprecise.

[3] I’m also curious how the ordinance will define “majority”. In one part of the Chicago zoning code, a block that’s zoned single-family-only but has 60 percent or more (more than a simple majority) two-flats on the same side of the block will also allow new two-flats.


Chicago prepares a deconversion ban near the 606 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-prepares-a-deconversion-ban-near-the-606-3fb47c0628 Wed, 02 Dec 2020 22:36:00 -0600 Steven Vance