Re-legalize coach houses and similar accessory housing

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Petition to adopt an ordinance that re-legalizes coach houses and rear houses, and newly legalizes "accessory dwelling units".

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Accessory dwelling units, typically expressed in Chicago as detached coach houses and finished basement apartments, were a common form of housing in the city in previous generations. However, all forms of ADUs are banned through means via changes made to zoning and building codes.

Coach houses and ADUs benefit many people in many situations:

  1. Increase the supply of affordable housing
  2. Increase income for homeowners
  3. Support "aging in place" and multigenerational housing - ADUs give families flexibility to share property and living spaces with extended family members
  4. Increase work for small and local architects and contractors
  5. Boost local businesses by creating more neighbors to support them

Send us your coach house story. Did you live in one, or would you like to be allowed to build or design them?

Accessory dwelling units are a way to provide affordable housing for renters, additional income for homeowners, and more job opportunities for architects and construction workers. There are also regulations that prevent the reuse of coach houses as apartments in certain circumstances.

Chicago, like many large cities in the United States, has a major housing affordability gap – there aren't enough affordable units for the families who need them, and so many people are rent burdened (paying more of their household income than is recommended).

See which mayoral and aldermanic candidates support this policy.

The Institute of Housing Studies (IHS) counted that lower-income Cook County residents needed 181,794 more affordable homes than currently exist.

ADUs add a gentle density on a block without changing the character of it, which, in turn, would restore the historic densities and affordability of many Chicago neighborhoods. ADUs are also a way to reuse existing structures, which is the most environmentally-friendly type of construction.

Allowing ADUs will boost the local architecture and construction economy by providing more work for designers and builders through renovations and new construction. This is especially helpful in the case when the housing construction cycle slows or is overcome by high construction costs. A recent report from the American Institute of Architects showed that a growing number of firms are interested in designing ADUs.

The number of multigenerational households has been increasing. For many families, allowing ADUs will enable "aging in place," as new heads of households can provide an adjacent and affordable apartment for their parents to live in independently. For other families, ADUs can provide a place for teenagers becoming adults, who are struggling with debt to pay for college, to live affordably outside the main house but remain close to home and close to school.

ADUs would be a new income opportunity for homeowners. ADU renovation and construction is also much cheaper than new construction of any full size house or multi-family building.

Allowing ADUs also presents a moment for Chicago to become an innovator in housing construction by also allowing prefabricated and modular designs.

Additionally, it would encourage preservation of existing coach and rear houses by allowing new construction to occur in the front of a lot – currently, if a property owner wants to build a new house in the front of a lot, the existing coach or rear house must be torn down.

Examples of ADUs include:

  • Coach houses (1-2 above a garage)
  • Rear houses (like coach houses, but without the garage)
  • Basement units (that meet existing building code, but are currently disallowed because of downzoning that doesn't allow additional units in single-family and 2-4 flats)
  • Attic additions (same barrier as basement units)
  • Junior ADU (this is a unit inside of a condo, or single-family house, and they look like this)