Chicago might boost housing affordability by allowing more granny flats

Chicago might boost housing affordability by allowing more granny flats

Chicago’s city council could boost housing affordability by expanding a program to allow more dwellings to be developed on existing home sites.

Chicago could see more coach homes, garden apartments and granny flats through a proposal before the city council that expands a test program.

Ald. Bennett Lawson, 44th Ward, introduced legislation expanding an existing pilot program from select areas to the whole city. The program allows accessory dwelling units such as coach homes, granny flats and constructed dwellings in basements and attics on lots already occupied by housing. The pilot program ran for three years and saw steady demand.

Accessory dwelling units were unofficially banned in the city in 1957 by restricting density and imposing parking requirements. Lawson’s proposal lays out two forms of dwellings: coach homes and units for basements and attics.

Matt Stern, Chicago’s interim Department of Housing policy director, said the units wouldn’t need subsidies from the city for construction.

“ADUs tend to be more naturally affordable without a subsidy than housing in any community where an ADU is located,” Stern said.

The Center for Poverty Solutions published research advocating for accessory dwelling unit expansion throughout Chicago. It was identified as a tool to increase the housing supply and thus affordability while also creating options for intergenerational family situations and social mobility without using more funds from the city. The units also give existing homeowners new income from rent and add to the tax base.

The legislation has to get through a committee but could face the full city council as soon as July. Specifics regarding requirements could change in that time.

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