Top Chicago officials push citywide ADU expansion

Mayor Johnson came out in favor of idea to eliminate limit on granny flats to five areas

Chicago Council's Umi Grigsby, Ald. Bennett Lawson and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
Chicago Council's Umi Grigsby, Ald. Bennett Lawson and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (Global Affairs, Bennet for 44, Carlos Rosa, Getty)

Chicagoans could soon have more real estate options to accommodate visits from their in-laws.

A proposal by 44th Ward Ald. Bennett Lawson to allow granny flats to be built in backyards, basements and above garages throughout the entire city is picking up steam among other officials, and Mayor Brandon Johnson has come out in favor of the idea, Crain’s reported.

The proposal would replace the city’s 2020 ordinance on accessory dwelling units, which limits them to being built in five pilot zones. Johnson and members of his administration have voiced their support to expand the eligibility across the city. Zoning czar Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and Johnson’s chief of policy Umi Grigsby said they back the proposal.

“Mayor Johnson campaigned on expanding the ADU pilot to all areas of the city, and I share that goal as zoning committee chair,” Ramirez-Rosa told the outlet. “Ald. Lawson’s proposal is part of a conversation on how to move forward with ADU expansion.”

Limits on some forms of accessory dwelling units are decades old in the Windy City. In 1957, Chicago banned alley-side coach houses and basement and attic apartments, but they’ve gained support in recent years as a viable way to increase affordable housing inventory.

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Lawson said that more ADUs would add “gentle density” throughout Chicago. Grigsby added that it would allow residents to “diversify their income, while also making sure the city’s housing stock continues to meet the needs of people with different income levels,” she told the outlet.

The current ordinance that created pilot zones is set to expire in May 2024. Pilot zones require property owners to charge below-market rents on up to 20 percent of new units in return for zoning changes they need for construction.

Lawson also said that ADUs would moderately grow the city’s tax base.

— Quinn Donoghue

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