comment 0

The tale of 2 Chicagos

Over the long weekend I wrote a post called “On medium density development.” My argument was that Toronto has gotten exceptional at building infill towers, but not so great at midrise and other medium density infill solutions. Though to be fair, we are starting to see more and more of that today.

Well it turns out that Chicago is in a similar, if not worse, position. According to Aaron Renn of the Urbanophile blog, most of the city (outside of the city center) only allows for single family homes. Though in some cases you may be allowed a duplex or triplex.

Here’s a map:


The red is where you’re only allowed to build single family homes. The yellow represents non-residential uses (parks, industry and so on). And the remaining black is where you’d see high density development. Note how it runs all along Lake Michigan. Both Toronto and Chicago are developing in a similar “T” formation.

Now, some of you may be saying to yourself: So what? But it’s important to remember that this type of zoning effectively creates a supply constraint in the market, which, as I’ve argued before, will drive up prices. Chicago may as well be surrounded by mountains, because that red area seems almost untouchable from a development standpoint.

With so many people rushing back to cities today, a lot of them are struggling to create the same market environment that our parents enjoyed. You know the one where you finish school, get a job, and then you’re able to buy a house. But I think it’s because many of our cities are at a turning point, and yet are clinging to outdated principles of city building, such as single-use zoning.

But I’m certainly no expert on Chicago, so if you are, please speak up in the comment section below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s