Building ADUs in Chicago May Get Easier Soon

In December 2020, Chicago City Council approved the Additional Dwelling Units (ADU) Ordinance, expanding housing access across Chicago by allowing ADUs in attics, basements, and accessory buildings. Common names for these types of housing units include coach houses, backyard houses, granny flats, and in-law suites.

ADUs were common in Chicago throughout the first half of the 20th century, but their construction was prohibited starting in 1957 due to changes in the Zoning Ordinance that added parking requirements and banned secondary residential structures on Chicago lots.

The ADU Ordinance allows for the creation of new units in certain zoning districts, and it also establishes a process for legalizing units that were previously built without zoning approval and building permits. Although the ADU Ordinance is intended to create more flexibility in the approval process, there are many nuances. Depending on whether you’re proposing to build a new unit, create a conversion unit or obtain approval for an existing unit built without permits, you can find out more about the process here.

The ADU Pilot Program is set to expire in 2024. Currently, the ADU Pilot Program is limited to the following areas:

  • North Zone
    • Edgewater, Lake View, Lincoln Square, North Center, Uptown, and the West Ridge community areas
  • Northwest Zone
    • Albany Park, Avondale, East Garfield Park, Hermosa, Irving Park, Logan Square, Near West Side, and West Town community areas
  • West Zone
    • East Garfield Park, North Lawndale, South Lawndale, and West Garfield Park community areas
  • South Zone
    • Portions of Ashburn, Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, Roseland, Washington Heights, Washington Park, West Englewood, West Lawn, and Woodlawn community areas
  • Southeast Zone
    • Portions of the East Side, Hegewisch, South Chicago, and South Deering community areas

In recent news, a proposal by 44th Ward Ald. Bennett Lawson to expand the ADU Pilot Program to the entire City of Chicago is picking up steam among other officials, with Mayor Brandon Johnson speaking out in support. The proposal appears to be a win-win for the city, housing advocates, investors, and house hackers because, on this rare occasion, all interests seem to align. The expansion of the ADU Pilot Program will moderately grow the City’s tax base while allowing for a simple way to create more safe and more affordable housing. For property owners and investors, the expansion would open a path to more rental income as well as an increase in the value of real property.

If you have questions about the Additional Dwelling Units Ordinance, we’d love to hear from you! You can reach us at

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only. It is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. The information provided here does not create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon this information without seeking advice from an attorney licensed in your own state or country.