Quick guide to 10 common Chicago housing styles

Chicago has some unique residential architecture. The design shop ALSO put together a quick guide:

The Bungalow

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With more than 100,000 bungalows in the Chicago metro area, this structure was the Windy City’s new workers cottage for the 20th century. Constructed between 1910 and 1940, the bungalow was originally built for working-class owners and is characterized by it’s one-and-a-half stories, brick construction, street facing verandas, and full basements. The Chicago bungalow was commonly built with limestone accents, dormered roof, and concrete entry stairs. The typical interior layout consisted of a living room, dining room, and kitchen on one side of the building, while the other side contained a series of bedrooms and a bathroom. The attic had ample storage and many homes featured a back porch, all of which was decorated in Arts and Crafts style woodwork. This truly was a new way life in the 20th century…

The Courtyard Building

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The distinct U-shaped courtyard building was built around green space visible from the street. Largely constructed between 1910 and 1930, the units were initially sold as luxury housing. With a front entrance stairwell shared with only 5 neighbors, a large back staircase, and a design that allows for good cross ventilation, these buildings made for very pleasant city living. Courtyards were rarely built taller than 3 stories as Chicago ordinance made it expensive for developers to build higher, due to fire-code restrictions and elevator requirements.

See the print options here.

Some of these are more iconic than others. For example, there is a non-profit group dedicated to Chicago bungalows but classic Dutch Colonials or Four Squares don’t get as much attention. And I’m a little surprised that some version of a bigger multi-story building didn’t make it here. What about all those big and bland lakefront condo buildings from the 1950s-1970s?

I wonder what such a list would look like in 50 years. While the options presented here might still dominate the list – not all neighborhoods are going to have major renovations – there will certainly be additional options. The South Loop Loft? The Slick Brick Renovated Three Flat?

Dilemma: replace older housing with “cheesy apartment complexes” or McMansions?

If older housing is going to be torn down, would you prefer it be replaced with apartment buildings or McMansions?

McMansions are going up one after another in my neighborhood on the Burbank hillside. Unattractive boxy additions are being built, leaving little yard space, and houses are being torn down to make way for bigger two-story barns. The reason for this may be because of the need for more room to accommodate today’s lifestyle — computers, media rooms, etc. It does spoil the whole appearance of the neighborhood. However, what’s worse it that ever since the ’60s,charming old cottages have been razed to make way for cheesy apartment complexes. Older apartment buildings with space and courtyards have been replaced by bigger apartment blocks with no outdoor areas. Maybe McMansions are the lesser of two evils.

Of course, these aren’t the only options available in many places. Yet, if land is expensive, McMansions and apartments could be appealing to builders and developers: the first can maximize square footage and have a higher selling price while the second increases the number of housing units (which could also help provide more housing in places that struggle with higher housing values).

If I had to guess, more Americans would choose to live next to a McMansion than an apartment complex. McMansions receive a lot of criticism, particularly in older neighborhoods where the new homes don’t fit the character or architecture. Yet, apartment complexes may be disliked even more by many suburbanites, even in the abstract, let alone next door or down the block. Apartments are perceived to attract different kinds of residents – lower class, different racial and ethnic groups, more prone to crime, more transient, less invested in their housing unit and the community – compared to suburban single-family homeowners.

Thinking more broadly, what housing options might be disliked more than apartments? Maybe trailer parks. Or group homes. Or public housing, whether in larger concentrations or scattered-site.

Exactly how many American homes are vacant?

Two bloggers have a disagreement about how many vacant homes there are in the United States. Check out the debate and the comments below.

The moral of the story: one still needs to interpret statistics and what exactly they are measuring. The different between 11% and 2% is quite a lot: the first figure suggests 1 out of 10 housing units are vacant while the second figure suggests it is 1 out of 50. If you look at Table 1 of this Census Bureau release regarding housing figures from Quarter 4, it looks like the vacancy rate is 2.7%. But there may be confusion based on Table 3 which suggests the vacancy for all housing units is roughly 11% for year-round units. And later in the release, page 11 of the document, gives the formula for the vacancy calculation and an explanation: “The homeowner vacancy rate is the proportion of the homeowner inventory that is vacant for sale.”

There are some other figures of note in this document. Table 4 shows that the homeownership rate is at 66.5%, down from a peak of 69.2% in the fourth quarter of 2004. (It is interesting to note that this rate peaked a couple of years before the housing market is popularly thought to have gone downhill. What happened between Q4 2004 and the start of the larger economic crisis? Table 7 has homeownership rates by race: the white rate has dropped 1.1% since 1Q 2007 while Blacks and Latinos have seen bigger drops (3.2% and 3.3%).