Oak Park is facing significant challenges in terms of housing availability and affordability. The demand to live in Oak Park is higher than ever, but the village lacks enough housing options to meet this demand. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, with rising construction costs and interest rates making it difficult to build smaller, naturally affordable housing developments. The zoning code, last updated in 2017, does not account for these challenges and fails to anticipate the impacts of the pandemic on housing demand.
One potential solution that has been proposed is the use of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). ADUs are additional living units built on existing residential properties. They provide flexibility to homeowners and have the potential to increase the stock of naturally affordable housing in Oak Park without significantly altering the community’s character.
The recently approved ADU ordinance in Oak Park empowers homeowners to build ADUs on their properties without the need for public meetings, planned development processes, or commission reviews. Homeowners can build one ADU “by right,” as long as they adhere to clear guidance and do not require additional parking (unless they live in a historic district).
If homeowners take advantage of this opportunity and build ADUs, it could have a significant impact on housing availability and affordability in Oak Park. With approximately 11,000 single-family homes in the village, just 36 homeowners building and renting out ADUs would create the equivalent of a large apartment building, providing more affordable housing options. Additionally, tenants of ADUs are more likely to rely on transit and non-car transportation methods, aligning with Oak Park’s excellent walkability and access to public transportation.
Building ADUs would also strengthen community ties, as tenants would have direct relationships with their landlords and become integrated into the fabric of Oak Park’s neighborhoods. The local design and construction community would also benefit from smaller-scale projects, keeping economic value within the village.
There are challenges to implementing this plan, such as the cost of building ADUs and the current interest rate environment. However, there is renter demand and potential partnerships with organizations like the Oak Park Regional Housing Center to help drive down costs and make ADUs more attractive to homeowners.
By embracing ADUs as a way to increase housing availability and affordability, Oak Park can preserve its commitment to diversity and community character while addressing the pressing housing challenges it currently faces.
– Oak Park Regional Housing Center: https://www.oakpark.com/2021/09/24/oak-park-plan-commission-poised-to-recommend-accessory-dwelling-units/
– Chicago Tribune: source article