Chicago had 83.6% of residents satisfied with their living experience in the second quarter. Adobe Stock/Kenneth Sponsler

According to The Architect's Newspaper, Chicago's City Council made some major changes to the city's building code earlier this year - the first update since 1949. The modifications will start to take effect this fall as builders, developers, and designers anticipate what's to come. The big changes include, a wider range of building materials will be allowed for construction, cost-effective construction of single-family homes will be incentivized, and there will be greater opportunities to convert existing basements and attics into livable space.

Chicago’s code changes are meant to improve and encourage new building projects of all sizes by increasing affordability towards materials, construction, and even time spent in the permitting process. A clear emphasis has been placed on making residential projects more accessible and achievable, a potential boon for the real estate industry.

It is evident in the city’s lack of new construction—single-family, two- and three-apartment housing typologies have slowly died-out in Chicago—that home renovations and historic rehabs have been difficult to achieve when abiding by Chicago’s existing code. Existing buildings that previously had no hope for a realistic update were felled either by demolition or vacancy, leading to even deeper issues around housing, safety, and social issues. Previously, if an owner added more than 25 percent to the building’s square footage, then the whole project had to comply with new construction building codes no matter if it were a single-family, neighborhood home, or downtown skyscraper.

To alleviate such issues, the new code will offer more flexible requirements to differentiate between a project type and its appropriate needs. Moreover, the reduction of the minimum ceiling height requirement and added options to meet light and ventilation requirements will boost accessory dwelling units.

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