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Unlocking the Potential of Chicago's ADU Ordinance: An Overview of the Rules and Benefits

Updated: 5 days ago





Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs), also known as granny flats, in-law units, or accessory apartments, are self-contained living spaces that are separate from the primary residence on a property. They are a popular and increasingly common way to add flexible and affordable housing options to urban areas. In recent years, cities across the United States, including Chicago, have enacted ADU ordinances to encourage the construction of these units and help address the housing shortage.

In this blog post, we'll provide an overview of Chicago's ADU ordinance and the benefits of building an ADU on your property. We'll also offer tips for homeowners interested in pursuing this option and highlight some successful ADUs in the city.


A Summary of Chicago's ADU Ordinance:

Chicago's ADU ordinance, which was enacted in 2019, allows for the construction of ADUs on properties in certain residential zones, subject to certain size and design restrictions. The ordinance also sets out the permitting process for ADUs and establishes standards for safety and accessibility.

Under the ordinance, ADUs can be either attached or detached from the primary residence and can be located in the front, side, or rear yard of the property. They must be no larger than 750 square feet and must comply with the city's zoning and building codes, including setback and height requirements. ADUs are also subject to the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, which sets out the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in the city.


Benefits of Building an ADU:

There are several benefits to building an ADU on your property in Chicago:

  • Affordable housing: ADUs can provide an affordable housing option for renters and can help homeowners offset their mortgage or property taxes.

  • Flexible living arrangements: ADUs can be used as a rental unit, a home office, a studio, or a space for family members or guests.

  • Increased property value: ADUs can increase the value of a property by providing an additional source of income or by increasing the overall living space.

  • Sustainable living: ADUs can be designed to be energy-efficient and can reduce the carbon footprint of a property.

Tips for Homeowners Interested in Building an ADU:

If you're a homeowner in Chicago and you're considering building an ADU on your property, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Check the zoning: Make sure your property is located in a residential zone that allows for ADUs. You can check the zoning of your property on the City of Chicago's website or by contacting the Department of Planning and Development.

  • Review the ordinance: Familiarize yourself with the requirements and restrictions of the ADU ordinance, including the size, design, and location of the unit. You can find a summary of the ordinance on the City of Chicago's website or by contacting the Department of Planning and Development.

  • Get the right permits: You'll need to apply for a building permit and any other required permits before you can begin construction on an ADU. Make sure to submit all required documents and follow the permit process to avoid delays or fines.

  • Consider hiring a professional: Building an ADU can be a complex process. If you're not comfortable tackling the project on your own, consider hiring a professional architect or contractor to help you with the design and construction.

Step-by-Step Guide to the ADU Permitting Process:

  1. Check the zoning: Make sure your property is located in a residential zone that allows for ADUs. You can check the zoning of your property on the City of Chicago's website or by contacting the Department of Planning and Development.

  2. Review the ADU ordinance: Familiarize yourself with the requirements and restrictions of the ADU ordinance, including the size, design, and location of the unit. You can find a summary of the ordinance on the City of Chicago's website or by contacting the Department of Planning and Development.

  3. Gather required documents: You'll need to provide a number of documents as part of your permit application, including a site plan, building plans, and a zoning certificate. Make sure to have these documents ready before you begin the application process.

  4. Submit the permit application: Once you have all the required documents, you can submit your permit application online through the City of Chicago's ePlan review system or in person at the Department of Buildings. You'll need to pay a fee at the time of submission.

  5. Wait for review: Your permit application will be reviewed by the Department of Buildings and other agencies as needed. This process can take several weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of the project.

  6. Make any necessary changes: If your application is denied or requires changes, you'll need to make those changes and resubmit your application. Make sure to address any issues or concerns raised by the review process.

  7. Obtain the permit: If your application is approved, you'll receive a permit that allows you to begin construction on your ADU. Make sure to keep the permit on hand and follow all the conditions and requirements set out in it.

Tips for a Successful ADU Application:

Here are some tips to help you navigate the permitting process for ADUs in Chicago:

  • Start early: The permitting process for ADUs can take several weeks or months, so it's a good idea to start the process as early as possible.

  • Be organized: Gather all the required documents and have them ready before you begin the application process. This will save you time and ensure that your application is complete.

  • Follow the rules: Make sure to follow all the requirements and restrictions of the ADU ordinance and the permit application process. This will help to ensure a smooth and successful application.

  • Seek help if needed: If you're unsure about the permitting process or have questions, don't hesitate to seek assistance. You can contact the Department of Planning and Development or hire a professional, such as an architect or contractor, to help you with the process.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid:

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when applying for a permit for an ADU in Chicago:

  • Not checking the zoning: It's important to make sure your property is located in a residential zone that allows for ADUs before you begin the permitting process. If your property is not zoned for ADUs, you'll need to apply for a zoning change, which can be a lengthy and complicated process.

  • Not following the ordinance: Make sure to familiarize yourself with the requirements and restrictions of the ADU ordinance and follow them when designing and building your unit. If you don't follow the ordinance, your application may be denied or you may face fines or other penalties.

  • Not having all the required documents: Make sure to gather all the required documents, including a site plan, building plans, and a zoning certificate, before you begin the application process. If you don't have all the required documents, your application may be delayed or denied.

  • Not addressing issues or concerns raised during the review process: If your application is denied or requires changes, make sure to address any issues or concerns raised by the review process before resubmitting your application. Failing to do so may result in further delays or denials.

There are several ways in which ADUs can increase the value of a property:

  • Additional income: If you rent out your ADU, you can generate additional income that can help to offset your mortgage or property taxes. This can increase the overall value of your property.

  • Increased living space: An ADU can increase the overall living space of a property, which can make it more attractive to buyers or renters. This can also increase the value of the property.

  • Flexibility: ADUs can provide flexible living arrangements, such as a rental unit, a home office, a studio, or a space for family members or guests. This can increase the appeal and value of the property.

  • Sustainability: ADUs can be designed to be energy-efficient, which can reduce the carbon footprint of a property and make it more attractive to environmentally-conscious buyers. This can also increase the value of the property.

Tips for Designing and Building an ADU that Adds Value:

If you're considering building an ADU on your property in Chicago and want to maximize the value of your property, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose the right location: An ADU should be located in a convenient and accessible area of the property, such as near amenities or public transportation. This can increase the appeal and value of the unit.

  • Consider the size and design: An ADU should be the right size and have a well-designed layout to maximize its value. Consider the needs and preferences of potential renters or buyers and design the unit accordingly.

  • Use high-quality materials: Using high-quality materials, such as energy-efficient windows and appliances, can increase the value of the ADU and make it more appealing to renters or buyers.

  • Follow the rules: Make sure to follow the rules and regulations of the ADU ordinance and the permitting process to ensure a successful and value-adding project.


ADUs are a flexible and affordable housing option that can benefit both homeowners and renters in Chicago. By following the rules and regulations set out in the ADU ordinance, homeowners can unlock the potential of their property and contribute to the city's housing supply. If you're interested in building an ADU on your property in Chicago, be sure to review the ordinance and follow the permitting process to ensure a successful project.

The permitting process for ADUs in Chicago can be complex, but by following the steps and guidelines outlined by the city and seeking assistance if needed, you can ensure a smooth and successful application. By obtaining the necessary permits, you can begin construction on your ADU and take the first step towards unlocking the potential of your property and adding flexible and affordable housing options to the city.

If you're planning to build an ADU in Chicago and need help with the permitting process, Permit Studio can help. Our team of experts specializes in permit expediting services and can guide you through the process from start to finish. Contact us today to learn more and get started on your ADU project

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