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September 13, 2017

Mayor Emanuel and the Department of Buildings Announce a 20% Increase in Single-Family Home Renovation Permits Issued in 2017

Process reforms reduced the time to obtain a permit by 10 days

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Department of Buildings today announced an increase in home renovations resulting from a Mayoral initiative to reduce technical barriers of rehabilitating residential buildings. Mayor Emanuel’s project permit reforms have made it faster and easier for single-family homeowners to obtain renovation permits. The city has seen a trend of a 20% increase per month in permits for large single-family home renovations in Chicago’s neighborhoods, signaling both investment and ease of process.

“Home renovation projects improve neighborhoods and create jobs for residents in every neighborhood of Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said. “This shows that common-sense reforms can spur economic opportunity and encourage even more families across the city to improve their homes while also investing in their neighborhoods.”

In October, Mayor Emanuel announced new process reforms allowing single-family homeowners to obtain renovation permits without special zoning approvals in 30 days or less, decreasing the time to obtain a permit in 2017 by 10 days. Single-family home renovation permits issued have increased to an average of 202 permits per month in 2017.

“The Building Department continues to strive for excellent customer service and assisting homeowners as much as possible in obtaining their permits and investing in the future of their community,” said Commissioner Judy Frydland. "This enables them to complete home projects quickly and safely.”

Another signal that residents are investing in building projects is the increase in permits for simple repair or replace projects, called Easy Permits. In 2017, the city issued an average of 1,102 easy permits per month.

Additional reforms have been implemented for single-family homeowners to clarify and expedite the issuance of permits:

  • An easy to use Guide to Permits which clearly explains the permit process and clarifies when a permit is not needed.
  • Ongoing Easy Permit process in which homeowners may obtain an online permit in a day for electrical, plumbing and simple structural projects.
  • Centralized walk-in Homeowner Assistance Program at City Hall staffed with an architect who assists the homeowner in drawing plans for ground floor room additions, kitchens, bathrooms, and decks as well as walks them through the process of obtaining the permit and getting any necessary zoning approvals.
  • Modernization of the plumbing, elevator and energy codes as well as natural light and ventilation requirements through Commissioner Memorandums. - Modernization of building and zoning requirements for residential rooftop decks and garages, clarifying requirements for applicants and significantly reducing the number of applications that require approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
  • City Council approval of new Electrical Code making Chicago first major city to align with the 2017 National Electrical Code. For single-family homeowners, the code provides costs savings that benefit all types of buildings – it reduces the number of required light fixtures in many new construction and renovations of single-family homes and allows for outside service disconnects for larger buildings. These provisions also allow design professionals to be flexible with building plans and encourage the adaptive reuse of buildings. The new Electrical Code also benefits Chicagoans in the following ways:
    • New lighting calculation methods and technologies that allows up to an 83 percent reduction in lighting design loads, which significantly lowers the cost of electrical installations in multi-family residential and commercial buildings as well as reduces electricity
    • Adopts latest national standards for sustainable technology including solar power and other renewable energy installations and storage
    • Adopts provisions for health care facilities to allow for enhanced technology and safety
    • Reduces new and renovation construction costs through expanded use of flexible metal conduit for both residential and non-residential rehabilitation and other updates.

These permitting reforms are part of the Mayor’s ongoing efforts to encourage more single-family homeowners across Chicago to take on home renovation projects while also ensuring those projects are completed safely and in compliance with trade regulations. In February, the City Council approved an ordinance introduced by Mayor Emanuel that further strengthens discipline against contractors and trade professionals who repeatedly violate Chicago building code and licensing regulations. The ordinance gave the Department of Buildings new tools to go after bad contractors, including suspension of permit privileges and license suspension and revocation.