A database of shrinkage

Sometimes people ask me: Daniel, how is it possible that a neighborhood like Lincoln Park – or Lakeview, etc. – can actually lose housing units?

The answer, for the most part, is that as demand to live in a neighborhood goes up, there’s a larger and larger pool of wealthy people looking for housing. And they’re not just willing to pay more for it; they’re willing to pay more for better housing. And one way to turn existing buildings into “better” housing is by taking two or three smaller units and making one bigger unit, which can then be sold or rented for more than the combined price of the old units.

Although this happens all the time, it’s hard to see, since it doesn’t involve teardowns or major construction. Fortunately, though, Steven Vance has created something called Licensed Chicago Contractors, which is a searchable database of every Chicago building permit over the last several years. Many, though far from all, of these jobs are described as “conversions” or “deconversions” in the permit, which means you can find a lot of them with a simple search. “Deconversion,” for example, gets 270 hits, including this beaut in Lincoln Park, which is turning a generous three-flat into a massive townhome:

Anyway, if you’re curious about what this process looks like on the ground, or if there have been any recent deconversions near you,  it’s a great tool.

4 thoughts on “A database of shrinkage

    1. Yeah, this seems right. I think it’s why the big-picture decisions about what kind of development we should allow ought to be made at a higher level than the ward.

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