Tag: ADU ordinance

Ald. Lawson re-introduces ordinance to jumpstart sagging ADU program

I wrote this summary of the ADU changes this proposed ordinance (O2023-2075) would implement (with my commentary in parentheses).

Before you read on, though, please sign the Urban Environmentalists Illinois petition to show your support for allowing ADUs citywide.

  • It allows ADUs citywide (this is the most important change to speed up adoption)
  • Expands to B and C1, C2 zoning districts (this is important because there are thousands of residential-only properties that are incorrectly zoned in B and C districts which don’t allow ADUs)
  • It also allows ground floor commercial conversions but only if 40% of more of the property length is commercial space.
  • It allows a property owner to have both an interior ADU and a backyard house ADU (currently you can have one or more interior ADUs or a backyard house)
  • It removes the 700 s.f. cap on floor area in backyard houses.
  • It allows property owners who want to build a coach house to ask the zoning administrator to waive parking requirements for the principal building. 
  • It would require a special use from the ZBA to establish an ADU in RS-1 and RS-2 zoning districts. These are much less common than the other R zoning districts and 0 ADUs have been permitted in those districts since May 1, 2021. 
  • It allows the property owner OR the city to notify the alder of a proposed ADU permit application. 
  • It eliminates the need for the property owner to notify their two adjacent neighbors. 
  • It doesn’t change the affordability requirements when proposing to build 2 or more interior ADUs. 
  • It eliminates the restrictions in the 3 southern limit areas that limited the number of ADU permits per block per year (this restriction ended up having no effect due to little demand in those areas). 
  • It eliminates the requirement that to build a coach house at a 1-3 unit house it had to be owner occupied (only in the 3 southern pilot areas, again this restriction ended up having no effect due to little demand in those areas). 

The changes would take effect 120 days after passage. It’s no guarantee that all of these will remain in the final version!

The ADU program in Chicago needs this. As I pointed out in my comment to the Chicago City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards, the number of ADU permits has been declining since December 2022.

Comment to Chicago’s committee on zoning about expanding ADUs

This doesn’t fully match with what I spoke at the Chicago City Council committee on zoning, landmarks, and building standards on April 16, 2024 (meeting agenda), because it was written for about two and a half minutes but due to the high number of public commenters Vice Chair Lawson (44th Ward) reduced everyone’s maximum speaking time from 3 minutes to 2 minutes so I made some on-the-fly cuts. Ordinance O2023-2075.

My name is Steven Vance. I am a Chicago resident and a land use consultant. In two weeks the city will reach the three-year anniversary of when Chicagoans could start applying for building permits to build accessory dwelling units, otherwise known as ADUs. Locally we call them garden apartments and coach houses.

In that time, the city has permitted approximately 237 projects comprising 275 new ADU homes. 75% of these are or will be in basements, and a little less than 20% are or will be in backyard or “coach” houses. 

11% of these homes are required to be rented at affordable rates set by the Department of Housing each year.

That’s 271 new homes that are or will be providing housing for family members, providing new income for property owners, and picking away at the city’s housing shortage of 120,000 homes. But the opportunity is not available to everyone, and the number of ADU permits issued each quarter has been declining since December 2022. 

The number of ADU permits has been declining. I include the graph here to illustrate my point but I did not present the graph during my comment.

City Council adopted five pilot areas, a limitation that doesn’t need to stick around. Hundreds of currently interested property owners are prohibited from building an ADU. Their current alternative is to undertake a costly zoning change process to gain the privilege of building one or two more units on their properties. (However, shoutout to the few alderpersons who facilitate this process on behalf of their constituents.)

I operate Chicago Cityscape, a real estate information website that also has advice on building ADUs and a tool to look up if a property is in an ADU pilot area. 

As of last week, people have looked up 815 addresses in 48 wards…but…70% of those addresses were not in a pilot area and those people will not be able to build an ADU at this time.

I believe those permitting and address lookup statistics show that ADUs, while representing less than 3% of new construction homes, are popular. They allow for Chicagoans to modify their properties to age in place, fund renovations and property taxes, or move a family member to be closer. Now is the time to expand this benefit to all of Chicago and I urge the City Council to drop the geographic ban as soon as possible.

Finally, Mayor Johnson’s Cut The Tape initiative includes citywide ADUs as a phase 2 strategy, so ADUs are something City Council should support. [This part was added last second.]