Chicago sees quick uptick in additional dwelling units

City’s Housing Department approved 328 applications in only four months

Chicago Commissioner Marisa Novara (City of Chicago, Getty)
Chicago Commissioner Marisa Novara (City of Chicago, Getty)

Chicago’s attempts to “gently” expand housing without disturbing neighborhood character are having mixed results.

After the city allowed additional dwelling units (ADUs) to be added to residential properties, the city’s Housing Department found that the policy may have merely boosted the number of pricey units in high-end neighborhoods, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

With the legislation, planners wanted to see if adding units around the city could introduce lower rents in more expensive neighborhoods, generate additional income for small landlords and encourage multi-generational housing.

The Housing Department said that since the program launched in May it’s approved 328 ADU applications. Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara said that so far about 65 percent of the approved applications were for projects in multi-family buildings and 35 percent were for coach houses or freestanding homes to be built on the rear side of properties.

The department’s findings also revealed that 83 percent of the approved units will be built on the North and Northwest sides, with the remaining 17 percent on the South, Southeast and West sides. The ADU ordinance has made it easier for developers to add housing in hot neighborhoods, but additional housing isn’t being added in struggling and disadvantaged areas.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot limited the ADU pilot program to five zones covering 21 wards. Novara said the department’s findings aren’t surprising because property owners with more disposable income have the means to invest in the units. Plus areas with high rents create more incentives to build.

Novara said the program shows promise and multiple aldermen have said they want the ordinance to be expanded to include their own wards.

The majority of approved ADUs are located in the North Side’s 47th Ward, which includes North Center, Ravenswood and Lincoln Square. The 1st Ward has the second most approved ADUs and covers Wicker Park and Logan Square.

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Alderman Harry Osterman (48th) and a coach house in Dunning (Credit: Zillow)
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— Victoria Pruitt

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