Chicago Cityscape Blog https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog The official blog of Chicago Cityscape en-US 60 <![CDATA[See Carmin’s future backyard ADU]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/see-carmin-s-future-backyard-adu-169b784f29 I’ve talked about Carmin Ballou a couple of times on this blog. Her parents moved in with her, her partner, and their two school-age children right before the COVID-19 pandemic started to upend lives in March 2020. Many combined and multi-generational families yearn for more space, including Carmin’s.

At first, the originally proposed ADU ordinance’s treatment of certain residential zoning districts was going to require that Carmin and her partner obtain a “special use permit”...

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I’ve talked about Carmin Ballou a couple of times on this blog. Her parents moved in with her, her partner, and their two school-age children right before the COVID-19 pandemic started to upend lives in March 2020. Many combined and multi-generational families yearn for more space, including Carmin’s.

At first, the originally proposed ADU ordinance’s treatment of certain residential zoning districts was going to require that Carmin and her partner obtain a “special use permit” through a process that would have resulted in hiring an attorney and appearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Thankfully, that version of the ordinance was modified to include RS-2 zoning districts “as of right”, and fortunately, the ordinance’s pilot area included her house. Since winter started, Carmin and her architect, Doug Sandberg, have been working on a design for a small one-bedroom apartment over a new garage. They might be far enough along on May 1, 2021, to apply for a building permit. (May 1 is a Saturday, so a plan reviewer wouldn’t get around to seeing the application until the following week.)

And they’re revealing the first schematic drawings here on Chicago Cityscape.

Consider some of the building parameters set by the ADU ordinance that constrain the design process:

  • The backyard house’s footprint cannot exceed the lesser of 60 percent of the rear setback or 700 s.f. For Carmin’s oversized lot (it’s 30' wide rather than 25' wide), that puts the maximum at 624 s.f.
  • The backyard house cannot exceed 22 feet in height. This includes any appurtenances and structures, like solar panels.
  • One side needs to have 3' clear and open to the sky. The other side will be dictated by the Chicago Building Code.
Left: A schematic design of the east elevation (looking west from the alley). Center: A schematic design of the upper-level one-bedroom apartment. Right: Site plan showing the footprint dimensions as well as features required by the zoning code and the permit review.

In the current design, the kitchen and living room share an open floor plan, there’s in-unit stacked laundry, a linen closet in the bathroom, and a 133 s.f. bedroom. Additionally, a window seat overlooks the backyard. Material choices are still being mulled over; the window bay would likely be wood, and flush panel metal sidings are a possible choice for the rest of the cladding.

The stairway is enclosed and accessed from the gangway. To maximize interior space, architects have the option in the zoning code to have an exterior stair in the rear setback, where it won’t count against footprint and floor area. The mix of elderly tenants and Chicago winters made that a no-go for this backyard house.

On the ground floor, a new two-car garage — two spaces are required by RS-2 zoning — has patio doors so it’s easy to move play and party equipment in and out of garage storage.

What will it cost? Carmin said they haven’t asked for any bids from contractors yet. Her family will be paying for it in part by cashing out of a recent refinance (“this made sense given the low rates”). About the rest, she said, “maybe a HELOC (home equity line of credit) or draining savings”.

Carmin mentioned that a staffer at 47th Ward Alder Matt Martin’s office had asked about financing. While she feels fortunate to have options, she encouraged Martin and other public officials to support programs for others without access to credit. Even with a small footprint of the ADU, new constructions remains expensive.

Alder Martin is hosting three ADU webinars, starting with the first on Tuesday, April 6, at 6:30 PM. I will be speaking, alongside representatives from City Hall.

We are currently gathering information about funding & financing options through this survey. If you’re calling banks, let us know which ones you’ve called and what they said. If you’re still figuring out what money sources are right for you, tell us what you’re considering. All responses are confidential.

Carmin added, “We would probably wait a bit to start to save more if needed rather than sacrifice design.”

The Chicago Cityscape ADU Portal has a directory of ADU service providers (architects, builders, and consultants), an FAQ, and a lookup to see if your property is in an eligible location.


See Carmin’s future backyard ADU 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/see-carmin-s-future-backyard-adu-169b784f29 Sat, 27 Mar 2021 08:20:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[A new “off-site” ARO townhouse development opens on the West Side]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/a-new-off-site-aro-townhouse-development-opens-on-the-west-side-9fb7daf03e Harrison Row Townhomes is a new group of affordable, townhouses for sale that were built to satisfy an ARO requirement for Structured Development. Eventually, there will be 50 units. The land was previously vacant.

Chicago’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance, or ARO, requires new housing developments with 10 or more units that receive a zoning change (or city money or land) to provide 10 percent (or more, depending on the location) of the units as affordable. The default rule is that some...

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Harrison Row Townhomes is a new group of affordable, townhouses for sale that were built to satisfy an ARO requirement for Structured Development. Eventually, there will be 50 units. The land was previously vacant.

Chicago’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance, or ARO, requires new housing developments with 10 or more units that receive a zoning change (or city money or land) to provide 10 percent (or more, depending on the location) of the units as affordable. The default rule is that some of the units must be built within the development, and others can be built somewhere else — off-site , within a maximum distance away— or not built at all and an in lieu fee is paid instead.

The new townhouses are at the corner of Congress Parkway and Francisco Avenue. Each townhouse also has a small rear yard and an access to a detached garage. Provided by Taylor Johnson.

The seven homes start at $229,000, and have three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms in 1,200 s.f. over three stories, and access to a detached garage.

CTA buses are a block away on Harrison Street to the Illinois Medical District and downtown, and on Kedzie Avenue, where there’s also a Blue Line station (see our Transportation Snapshot for this location).

Aside from this being one of the rare off-site ARO for-sale housing developments, there is one other significant aspect.

Kevin Brinson principal, Fain’s Development LLC; Annette Shelton, Fain’s Development and Baird & Warner; Almarie Ratcliff; Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr.; Mike Drew, founding principal of Structured Development; Quentin Addison, principal, Fain’s Development LLC. Provided by Taylor Johnson.

The townhouses were co-developed by Structured Development — a major developer, responsible for the New City apartments and mall in Lincoln Park, among others — and Fain’s Development. The next phase will have 26 townhouses and be led by Fain’s Development.

From a press release, “Fain’s Development, LLC, a community-based minority development firm led by Kevin Brinson and Quentin ‘Q’ Addison, will act as a full joint venture partner on a portion of the next phase after receiving mentorship during the development of phase one. Like Structured, Fain’s will share in the fee revenues and profit and losses while gaining the foundation to develop projects independently in the future.”

The townhouses are triggered by Structured Development’s Big Deahl development, two blocks east of the New City apartments and mall. That location is in the Near North Pilot Area and thus cannot pay an in lieu fee and must build all of its required affordable housing.

Big Deahl, also called The Shops at Big Deahl, is a phased development. A climbing gym was permitted two years ago and several new residential skyscrapers were approved by Chicago City Council in January.

Three of the seven units are under contract. Photos by Steven Vance.

Since they are affordable dwellings, potential buyers must earn less than 120 percent of the area median income. The Chicago Community Land Trust is in charge of verifying buyers’ incomes. The land trust also has a deed covenant on each townhouse’s recordings to ensure permanent affordability.

When I visited the site on Friday afternoon, there were signs indicating that three of the seven units were already under contract.


A new “off-site” ARO townhouse development opens on the West Side 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-new-off-site-aro-townhouse-development-opens-on-the-west-side-9fb7daf03e Fri, 26 Mar 2021 14:34:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Newly approved demolition fee pilot program is a positive step to stem the loss of 2 to 4 flats]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/newly-approved-demolition-fee-pilot-program-is-a-positive-step-to-stem-the-loss-of-2-to-4-flats-dd627da5e5 By Chas Sirridge

On Monday, the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council approved by a 20–11 vote a new pilot program that would impose a surcharge on demolition permits of $15,000 for a detached house, townhouse, or two flat (defined as two units on a single lot with a common wall/floor/ceiling), and $5,000 per unit for multi-unit buildings in two pilot areas:

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By Chas Sirridge

On Monday, the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council approved by a 20–11 vote a new pilot program that would impose a surcharge on demolition permits of $15,000 for a detached house, townhouse, or two flat (defined as two units on a single lot with a common wall/floor/ceiling), and $5,000 per unit for multi-unit buildings in two pilot areas:

Today, the pilot program received full council approval by a 37-12 vote.

Many small apartment buildings in Logan Square, Humboldt Park (pictured), and Pilsen have been converted to single units or torn down and replaced by single units, reducing the availability of “naturally occurring affordable housing”. Photo by Steven Vance.

Background on the demolition surcharge ordinance

The ordinance builds upon two minimum-density ordinances passed earlier this year which create special overlay districts to which the boundaries of the demolition surcharge correspond. In the Pilsen Multi-Unit Preservation District, by-right construction of single family homes and two flats is disallowed in RT-4 and all RM-4.5 to 6 districts, unless more than 50 percent of zoning lots on that block contain single family homes or two flats. In the 606 Preponderance of the Block District, by-right construction of single family homes is eliminated on blocks in RS-3 and RT 3.5 districts where more than 50 percent of zoning lots have been legally improved with multi-family buildings. In RS-3 districts in the pilot area, the minimum lot area per unit is reduced from 2,500 to 1,500 square feet, to allow by-right construction of (two unit) two flats on a standard (3,125 square foot) Chicago lot.

Exemptions to the demolition surcharge are allowed if a building has been found to be unsafe or if the demolished building is to be replaced by one in which 50 percent of units are legally restricted to households making no more than 60 percent of the area median income.

Funds generated from the surcharge will be deposited in the Affordable Housing Opportunity Funds and then transferred to the Chicago Community Land Trust.

The pilot program will run through April 1, 2022;150 days before the pilot’s expiration, the Department of Housing will make a report to the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate on the observed effects of the pilot.

Why the demolition surcharge is needed

This pilot program has been a long time in the making. A much more aggressive ordinance, the result of a collaborative effort with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) was introduced in mid 2017 by Alds. Rosa (35), Maldonado (26), and then 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno, in recognition of market/development pressures following the opening of the 606. These new pilots have the potential to be innovative tools that can be modified and built upon to protect Chicago’s large stock of small multi-family “naturally occurring” affordable housing.

The loss of two and three flats in Chicago and its implication for Chicago’s housing affordability is the subject of the masters project I am currently working on as a Masters of Urban Planning student at UIC.

The following is a letter I submitted as a written comment to the Committee on Finance on the importance of preserving this housing stock in preventing the displacement of Latinx families from the Logan Square, Avondale, and Hermosa communities:

Dear members of the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance,

My name is Chas Sirridge. I am a Masters of Urban Planning student at UIC currently working on a masters project about the importance of preserving Chicago’s two and three flats. I would like to share some preliminary data I’ve collected for my project that I feel speaks to the importance of protecting these housing types, through policies like the Demolition Surcharge Tax Pilot Program. All data, unless otherwise noted, is from the 2012 and 2019 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Surveys (PUMS).

Two to four unit buildings make up just under a third (~30 percent) of the city’s housing units — ~350,000 units. Just under one-third (~32 percent) of Chicago’s population live in two to four unit buildings — ~820,000 people. ~Forty percent of Chicago’s renter population live in two and three flats.

The vast majority (nearly 80 percent) of residents of two and three flats are people of color. Latinx people make up the largest racial/ethnic group in two and three flats at ~40 percent. Just under 30 percent of residents of two and three flats are Black.

The majority of two and three flats are what planners refer to as “naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH),” meaning that they rent for less than market rate despite receiving no government subsidy. The recent Citywide Affordable Rental Housing Analysis by DOH and DPD found that 26 percent of units in Chicago are NOAH, compared to only 10 percent that are legally restricted. A 2016 profile of Chicago’s multifamily housing market by Rachel Scheu and Margaret Garascia of Elevate Energy found that 70 percent of units in 2–4 unit buildings (more than 250,000 units) fit this description. A 2020 report by Miriam Zuk, Diane Limas, Charisma Thapa, and Andy Greer for the Metropolitan Planning Council found that nearly 40 percent of the city’s affordable housing units are in 2–4 unit buildings.

Two and three flats are not only an important source of NOAH but an important source of family-sized NOAH. Nearly a third (30 percent) of housing units with three or more bedrooms in Chicago are in 2 to 4 unit buildings; more than half (57 percent) of rental units. Almost 60 percent of affordable 3+ bedroom units are in two flats and three flats.

But the number of units in 2 to 4 flats has been in decline over the past decade. From 2009 to 2019, the number of units in 2 to 4's decreased by ~40,000 units — from nearly 400,000 units in 2009 to just over 350,000 in 2019 — a 10 percent decrease.

During this period the population in two to fours decreased by ~80,000 people — a difference of nearly 10 percent. When broken down by race, only the Black and Latinx populations saw a net decrease. The Latinx population declined by ~35,000 people, or just under 10 percent. Meanwhile the Black population declined by nearly 60,000 people — nearly 20 percent. The number of families with children declined by almost 20 percent — or ~20,000 families.

In the Logan Square, Avondale, Hermosa communities, just under half of the ~56,000 housing units are in two and three flats. Just over 60 percent of Latinx residents live in two and three flats. More than 40 percent of the neighborhood’s family-sized (3+ bedroom) units are in 2 to 4’s; 76 percent of family-sized rental units, housing 45 percent of families with children in these communities (SFH’s house the next largest share at 38 percent, followed by 5 to 9 unit buildings at 12 percent).

From 2012 to 2019, the number of units in two and three flats in these communities has declined by ~6 percent — just over 1,500 units. During this time, the Latinx population in two and three flats fell almost 35 percent — a difference of almost 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, there have been 2,886 new units built since 2012. Of these units, half are in SFH’s and just under a third are in 50+ unit high rises. Rents in family-sized units built since 2012 are $700 more on average than those in buildings built before 1939. The average value of a new SFH is ~$1.3 million — twice that of a SFH built before 1939.

This data, in my opinion, demonstrates the necessity of preserving the stock of old two and three flats if we want to address the displacement of working families. The loss of old two and three flats threatens to exclude families who can’t afford to buy from neighborhoods like Logan Square, Hermosa, and Avondale, as well as neighborhoods like North Center, Lakeview, West Town, and Pilsen.

I’d be more than happy to share more of my research, discuss this research further, answer any questions, or discuss potential solutions further should any policy makers wish to do so. I can be reached at csirri2@uic.edu.


Newly approved demolition fee pilot program is a positive step to stem the loss of 2 to 4 flats 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/newly-approved-demolition-fee-pilot-program-is-a-positive-step-to-stem-the-loss-of-2-to-4-flats-dd627da5e5 Wed, 24 Mar 2021 14:04:00 -0500 Chas Sirridge
<![CDATA[Chicago developers are constructing bigger wood residential buildings due to changes in the code]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-developers-are-constructing-bigger-wood-residential-buildings-due-to-changes-in-the-code-10df6e19f6
Rendering of a wood frame 4-flat (two duplex units side by side) that was permitted in two locations in Woodlawn in February (PMPC Architects)

Nearly two years ago I co-wrote a blog post exclaiming one of the significant features of Chicago’s new building code: bigger wood frame buildings. This doesn’t mean that developers in Chicago can start erecting the kind of 50 to 150-unit “stick built” apartment complexes popular in California, Nevada, and Utah (see this new construction in...

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Rendering of a wood frame 4-flat (two duplex units side by side) that was permitted in two locations in Woodlawn in February (PMPC Architects)

Nearly two years ago I co-wrote a blog post exclaiming one of the significant features of Chicago’s new building code: bigger wood frame buildings. This doesn’t mean that developers in Chicago can start erecting the kind of 50 to 150-unit “stick built” apartment complexes popular in California, Nevada, and Utah (see this new construction in Salt Lake City).

But it does mean that a space-limited 3-flat is no longer the maximum size, as it was in the pre-2019 Chicago Building Code. Since its adoption, a handful of building permits have been issued for bigger wood frame multi-unit buildings.

This is important because wood is cheaper and faster to build with.

Except, at the moment, lumber prices are extremely high due (doubled on some days, according to softwood market futures) to production issues largely caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Associated General Contractors of America “asked Biden to urge domestic lumber producers to ramp up production to address growing shortages, as well as to make the crafting of a new softwood lumber agreement with Canada a top priority of his administration” (Construction Dive).

What the 2019 Chicago Building Code allows

In the old building code, the top floor of a 3-flat couldn’t be larger than 800 s.f., which meant that the building (depicted below) was the biggest wood frame construction multi-unit that could be built. (The standards are in the old code’s Type IV-A construction type.)

This 3-flat on Sawyer just north of the Bloomingdale Trail has the maximum size third floor allowed by the pre-2019 Chicago Building Code. It was designed by Landon Bone Baker for LUCHA’s Tierra Linda multi-site apartment development in Humboldt Park and Logan Square.
In the current CBC, a third story is allowed in a small residential building (occupancy class A) of Type IV-A construction if it is limited to 800 s.f. in area and the first and second stories are limited to 1,600 s.f. in area (13-48-030, note “h”).
The [previous] CBC allows up to 4,000 s.f. of building area in Type IV-A construction of a multi-story residential building (13-48-080); in single-story residential buildings, the limit is 5,000 s.f. The [newly adopted] CBC’s Type V-A limits area to 5,000 s.f. in a small residential building without sprinklers regardless of the number of stories. via MAP Strategies

In Chicago’s new building code, which adopted International Building Code 2018 edition, Type V-A dictates wood frame construction standards and removes that area limitation on the top floor allowing. The code still has area and height limitations on wood frame residential buildings but it’s now possible to build 10s of units using the new Chicago Building Code — with sprinklers, of course.

Let’s see some examples

PMPC Architects, founded by Prashanth Mahakali, obtained permits for two 4-flats last month (see the rendering at the top of the post). Both buildings will be in the Woodlawn community area. One of the lots has been vacant since between 1972 and 1983, and the other has been vacant since between 1988 and 1998 (Historic Aerials for the win).

Each of the three and a half story 4-flats has two duplex units, side by side. Each unit has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and are identically sized with 1,940 s.f. of floor area. Each building — with about 8,000 s.f. of floor area — also has an NFPA 13R-compliant sprinkler system throughout the building.

Prashanth said, “Even with the lumber price increase, on a very conservative basis, this building will have at least over $250,000 in price savings by using wood and siding instead of masonry. This includes savings from building material, labor and delivery.”

The first “Type V-A” permits I noticed came out last summer, for three 6-flats, but the owner declined to be acknowledged in this post. All other Type V-A permits have been for single-detached houses and 2 or 3-flats.

Go bigger

Rendering of three 4-story wood frame apartment buildings, each with 16 units (Bailey Edward Architects)

Wood frame residential buildings can be even bigger than four or six units. The next example of new construction wood frame multi-unit residences are three apartment buildings being built in the Near North Side (also on vacant land). Each Type V-A wood building has 16 apartments over four stories!

The development, called Schiller Place, was designed by Bailey Edward Architects, for Structured Development (which built the New City mall and apartments across the street) and Evergreen. GMA is constructing it and posted photos of the foundation formwork last week.

Are you developing a wood frame multi-unit residential building?


Chicago developers are constructing bigger wood residential buildings due to changes in the code 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-developers-are-constructing-bigger-wood-residential-buildings-due-to-changes-in-the-code-10df6e19f6 Tue, 02 Mar 2021 15:19:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Use new Cityscape tools to grow your ADU business]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/use-new-cityscape-tools-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 à 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 new Cityscape tools 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-new-cityscape-tools-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)
]]>
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.

Architecture firms have been designing prototypes for a year now. From left to right: Booth Hansen hypothetical design for a backyard house that’s built on a vacant lot; Civic Projects designed two basement apartments that were actually built and rented in 2020, prior to the enactment of the ADU ordinance because the building had unused zoning allowance; LEVEL has designed a hypothetical backyard house.

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 properties per block (both sides of the street between intersecting streets) can get an ADU permit per year.

7. How big of an ADU can I build?

Interior ADUs: Generally, interior ADUs can be created out of any subdivided space within the building’s existing envelope. If an addition is desired that would expand the envelope (either in the rear, side, or another floor), then the FAR and setbacks need to be calculated. Chicago Cityscape or an architect can do this.

Backyard and coach houses: The floor area is limited to 700 s.f. The zoning code doesn’t define “floor area” so use the zoning code’s definition of Floor Area Ratio to determine what counts as floor area.

The combined footprint of all accessory buildings (garages, backyard houses, sheds, etc.) cannot exceed 60 percent of the required rear setback. Review Booth Hansen’s zoning worksheet on how to calculate these maximums for backyard houses, or read the list below:

  • Standard lot size (25' wide by 125' deep): The required rear setback is 28 percent of lot depth, or 50 feet, whichever is less. 125*.28 = 35' is the required rear setback depth. Multiply 35' by 25' to get the area: 875. Multiply 875 by 60 percent to get the maximum footprint area: 875*.60 = 525 s.f.
  • 1.5x wide lot (37.5' wide by 125' deep): 125*.28 = 35. 35*37.5 = 1,312.50. 1,312.50*.60 = 787.50 s.f. maximum footprint — but remember that the floor area is limited to 700 s.f.

Backyard house design tip #1: Consider placing a staircase on the exterior of the backyard house, which is allowed to be in the required rear setback and does not count against the above maximums.

Backyard house design tip #2: Increase the floor area beyond the footprint by building a loft or mezzanine space.

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 approved ordinance. Keeping the current off-street car parking requirement in RS districts at 2 will make it impossible to use ground level space for a backyard house on a standard-width lot (25 feet wide). That means accessible backyard houses will only be possible on lots about 37.5 feet wide or wider.

The original proposal reduced the requirement to 1 parking space per unit, allowing homeowners to reduce the number of spaces from 2 (for a single-detached house in an RS district) 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 courtesy is a new regulation compared to the original proposed ordinance. “Prior to issuance of a building permit…the permit applicant must provide written notice to abutting property owners and to the local alderman.”

The exact means and method hasn’t been established; most building permit notifications are provided via certified mail. The ordinance further stipulates that “[t]he applicant must submit a written affidavit certifying compliance with the notice requirements with the permit application.”

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.

Relatedly, the maximum building height of 22' is measured the typical zoning way, as described in 17-17-0311.

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