City Touts Rise In Home Renovations, Faster Permit Process

CHICAGO (CBS) — City officials have said changes to the city’s home renovation permitting process have sparked an increase in homeowners improving their properties.

“Construction isn’t just booming downtown. Chicago is also seeing an increase in single-family home renovations in Chicago neighborhoods,” Buildings Commissioner Judy Frydland said.

According to Frydland, after changes unveiled last fall, the home renovation permit process now takes 10 days less than it used to.

The number of permits issued has gone up from 169 per month in 2015 to 202 per month for the first seven months of 2017 – an increase of nearly 20 percent.

“It shows me that people want to invest in the city of Chicago. They want to stay here. They love living here,” Frydland said.

Wednesday morning, Frydland stood with Ald. George Cardenas (12th) and two homeowners who are adding a 2nd floor to their house at 37th and Wolcott in the McKinley Park neighborhood.

Homeowner Neringa Venslavicius and her husband, Dennis, chose to expand their house – which was was built in 1892 – and not move when their second daughter was born. She said the neighborhood is a hidden gem.

“We love the area, to be honest. We have McKinley Park right here, which is amazing, two blocks from us. Daughters go to charter school. That’s great, you know? Love neighbors,” she said.

Dennis Venslavicius said their decision not to move, but to expand, was a fairly easy one.

“The neighborhood improved a lot in past 10 years, and we’re 10 minutes from the beach of Lake Michigan, 10 minutes from downtown of Chicago, which is the beatifulest city in the country,” he said. “We love it here. Schools is good and we happy here. So that’s why we decided to improve our house for our daughters.”

Cardenas said he’s seeing more and more people like the Venslavicus family deciding to renovate their homes.

“They’re fixing their basements, and they’re fixing their second floor, attics, and so forth; and that’s a great sign,” he said.

Neringa Venslavicius said she’s noticed a difference in the permit process.

“Years ago we went to City Hall for, like, shingles to be replaced, and it was a nightmare. Now, seven, eight years later, you go there and they’re really friendly. They really try to help you,” she said.

Venslavicius said she believes many more people will start doing what she and her husband are doing.

“You have no idea how many cars stopped once we started demolition, asking Dennis, ‘What are you doing? How did you get to this point?’”

In addition to speeding up the process to get a permit for home renovations, the city has created a walk-in center at City Hall where Buildings Department staff can help guide homeowners through the process – such as assisting them with notifying neighbors when necessary, and walking them through the public hearing process for certain projects.

“We want people to invest in their homes. We love it that, like this family said, they want to stay in the city of Chicago forever, and we want to be supportive in every way possible,” Frydland said.

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