Over one year later, no detached housing built following Champaign ordinance

You are currently viewing Over one year later, no detached housing built following Champaign ordinance
Image from illinoisrealtors.org article about accessory dwelling units.

Some residents expressed concern about a negative impact on neighborhoods when the city of Champaign passed a June 2022 ordinance to build additional, detached housing on their properties. 

But over one year later, none of these accessory dwelling units (ADU) have been built and no permits have been filed, Eric VanBuskirk, the city’s associate planner, confirmed as March 4 this year.

“Since adopting that ordinance, we actually haven’t had any new accessory dwelling units built,” he had said in an earlier interview. 

VanBuskirk said there were a variety of reasons that ADUs had not been built. He cited the post-pandemic cost of construction as being one of the biggest factors. He said that with rising interest rates, the cost to build an ADU was even higher than it would be under normal circumstances.

“It’s a sizable investment for a homeowner to say, ‘I want to build an ADU,’” he said. 

In California, there has been a push for ADUs because of the high cost of home ownership in that state. The cities of San Jose and San Francisco repealed their ADU prohibitions in 2016 to combat escalating rents. 

According to a 2018 study on ADUs serving as low-income housing, Illinois has required that “all cities ensure that 10% of their housing inventory is affordable to low-income households” since 2005. Cities that are non-compliant with this rule must create housing plans that include objectives that will increase the low-income housing inventory.

Janet Cheney, CEO of the Champaign County Association of REALTORS, said ADUs are “very uncommon currently, but a hot topic in discussions across the state to combat affordable housing.”

She said Champaign is ahead in the ADU process compared to other central Illinois cities. 

“The cities that have regulations and are considered tiny home friendly are Quincy, Evanston, Livingston, Elgin, and Fithian,” she said in an interview with CU-CitizenAccess last fall. 

Graphic from ABCs of ADUs on the AARP website.

The ordinance in Champaign was passed after nearly a year of surveys, input and discussion from the public. But VanBuskirk said the city was getting calls from people inquiring about building an ADU and would get turned off by the price and the process.

Residents of the Clark Park neighborhood were among the groups of Champaign residents who had reservations and suggestions about ADUs and the proposed ordinance amendment. 

Traci Quigg Thomas, a member of the Clark Park neighborhood association, said in an interview she was interested in building an ADU at some point.

“I kind of know where, if I were to build one on my property, where I would build it,” Thomas said. “And I think that there still are, like, a lot of barriers … but I think part of it is probably just like construction costs.”

In her research, Thomas said she found some municipalities in other states have ADU plans that are pre-approved by the city.

“And that kind of thing … will also kind of lower, like, the barriers for people to do these types of things,” she said.

The ADU ordinance coincides with the adoption of incremental development in Champaign, a concept that “is characterized by allowing small-scale changes to individual properties.” VanBuskirk said this type of development can be characterized as “small changes in local places slowly over time.” 

Changing the character and reducing the natural greenery of the neighborhood were among the greatest resident concerns, CU-CitizenAccess previously reported in 2021. 

ADUs are not the Clark Park neighborhood’s only battle with housing policies in recent times. In 2018, residents organized against the building of “giant” houses and related zoning proposals. 

Mike McMillen, a Clark Park resident, said in a 2021 article that it could cause “properties to get more and more cramped,” and that “the city is looking for greater density, they want more taxes, I’m pretty sure.”

In Champaign, houses with greater than 7,200 square feet have a maximum ADU size of 800 square feet. For reference, Clark Park’s two pickleball courts have a square footage of 880. Houses below 7,200 square feet are restricted to ADU sizes of 600 square feet.

VanBuskirk said the typical lot in Clark Park is around 6,000 square feet, meaning the maximum ADU size of the typical house in the neighborhood is just 600 square feet.

VanBuskirk said that the ordinance does not play a role in single-family housing turning into duplex zoning because ADUs are considered small buildings on single-housing property that are “accessory to the single-family use.” 

ADUs must also contain areas for sleeping, cooking and bathing. 

TinyHouse.com, a website that blogs about and sells ADUs, which they call tiny houses, said ADUs are legal in Illinois, but that “the State leaves building and zoning laws up to each individual city and county, meaning tiny houses are not accepted in all areas and counties.”

The city of Moline, Illinois, was in a similar situation to Champaign in the past two years. Moline officials looked to approve ADUs to increase housing units without having to create new streets, but were unsuccessful.

The nature of Moline being an older city with tight roads means that parking is only allowed on one side of the road. The city would require a parking space to be created for each ADU constructed, which was a contributing factor to them being denied outright.

Unlike Moline, Champaign does not have any rules about ADUs needing parking, according to VanBuskirk.

Champaign’s ADU ordinance says that “no additional off-street vehicular or bicycle parking spaces are required for an ADU,” but that ADUs located behind the primary housing structures “must be accessible from the public right-of-way for emergency purposes with at least three feet of width between the Principal Structure and the lot line.”

Leave a Reply

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Mary Wills

    These are tiny homes and not what most people think of what an “ADU” is. I think an artist space out back of a larger home for example. Plus with this super unrealistic property ownership requirement and size limits they are limiting the risk of them being used for things like shot term rentals. But that has a drawback. as larger cities are now plagued with affordable housing shortages by allowing huge and sometimes multi-unit ADUs to be used solely as short term rentals and not requiring some sort of level of affordability in these types of housing.