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What Is A Two Flat House

    The term two-flat describes the type of building in Chicago that has two independent units on separate floors. Built mostly between 1900 and 1920, the two-flat is a two-story structure with one unit of housing on each floor. A combination of a single-family home and a multi-family dwelling, a two-flat was intended as a financial investment. Over the years, the two-flat has gained its reputation as one of the most prominent and influential buildings in all of Chicagos architecture.

    A rich part of Chicagos history, two-flats were initially designed to be multi-unit buildings, rented as 2 units, or a single-family house with double the square footage. In their traditional Chicago two-flat form, the two-flats were the perfect package for first-time homebuyers during that windowspan of the great Chicago fires and pre-Depression years in Chicagos history. Many of Chicagos two-flats were built from plans a homebuilder selected from a brochure, with small flourishes added here and there to serve as distinguishing touches, making them akin to Sears Craftsman homes, which gained a niche, but intensely dedicated, following among architecture enthusiasts.

    Two doors hidden behind the lone front entry, bricks painted in shades of red, an improvised rear porch over a wooden staircase–the Chicago two-flat has provided high-quality housing for Chicagoans of all backgrounds over the course of four generations. The two-flat is one of the most common, as well as affordable, types of housing available to renters in the Chicago housing market.

    Two-flats, along with other generally affordable units, have dominated the architecture of residential neighborhoods in Chicago for almost a century. Two-to-four-unit multifamily buildings accounted for 27 percent of Chicagos housing stock, according to data from the DePaul Institute for Housing Studies. Between 2010 and 2016, smaller, multi-unit, two- to four-unit buildings were the only type of housing that declined, according to data from DePaul Universitys Institute for Housing Studies (IHS). Neighborhoods such as Little Village, Brighton Park, and West Garfield Park had housing stock comprised of two- and four-unit buildings such as condos, according to a map by DePauls Institute of Housing Studies from 2014.

    In the neighborhoods that are being gentrified, the two- and four-unit buildings are being converted into single-family homes, joining two floors of apartments. Sales are dropping, but only because the two-units are hard to keep up, and so many are being demolished to make way for taller buildings, which are driving working-class middle-class residents from their homes. Despite their popularity, new two- and four-flats are being built at lower rates than other types of buildings, yet still being torn down or converted into non-existent buildings.

    Near the citys core, demand has been growing for the conversion of two-flats to single-family homes, or their replacement by multi-story rentals or apartment buildings, making it harder for Chicagoans to find affordable housing. Other homebuyers in neighborhoods with higher land costs, such as North Center and Lincoln Square, are buying up the units and turning them into single-family homes. Since the financial and foreclosure crisis in 2008, many of the double-flats in other neighborhoods across the city are sitting empty, or have been bought up by developers, who are not using the units.

    Two- to four-unit buildings still make up over one-third of the rental units in neighborhoods across Chicago, according to estimates from the Institute for Housing Studies. These buildings account for even larger shares of the rental supply in a number of different neighborhoods, across Chicago.

    In neighborhoods such as Brighton Park, New City, and the above-mentioned South Lawndale, the estimated 76 comprise two-thirds of Chicagos housing supply, and a substantial share of the citys affordable housing. In 2015, units in the ubiquitous two-flat made up 27% of the citys housing stock, and an even larger portion of its rental housing. Two- and four-flats are the core of naturally occurring affordable housing in Chicago, the ones that are either rented or sold for an affordable price with no subsidies. The typical 2 Chicago flat is a small, multi-unit structure, housing two to three units with shared entrances.

    The terms Two-Flat and Three-Flat may be used to describe any multi-unit, two- or three-unit apartment building of various styles. In the UK, the term duplex is most commonly used by real estate professionals, such as architects and estate agents, and it only refers to one flat or unit on two floors connected by a single internal staircase, although many newer apartments feature open-plan designs that incorporate lofts. In Chicago, a duplex is defined as a detached, detached unit consisting of two floors, connected to each other by internal stairs, usually in a condominium building.

    Typically, one of the two units in the same building is occupied by the owner of the building, while the other unit is rented (or used by a family member, thus the term in-laws apartment). This was common in established neighborhoods in the Great Depression. The third type of 2-unit housing is a duplex, which is generally two-family housing on one lot, which is located next to each other. Another type is an older single-family home that was converted to a two-unit residence at some point.

    A multifamily house may house multiple families, but it is ultimately owned by one owner, and is located on a single lot. The buildings are not housing primarily Czechs and other Eastern European immigrants anymore, but tenants today have shared much over decades with neighbors: Many use two-flats for the purpose of creating communities, as well as some personal wealth in the form of equity.

    In many ways, the two-flat marked the halfway house between the cramped, contained life of the late 1800s and the more spacious housing styles that came later, including Chicagos signature bungalows, which would crop up throughout the 1930s and 40s as Chicagos population continued to boom and disperse. Other places may have buildings that look similar to flats–like the brownstones in New York City, or the rowhouses of the Northeast–but all are at least a little bit different than a citys traditional one-flat. As the Chicago Architectural Center points out, many developers stopped building 2-unit buildings, which are increasingly seen as unworkable.

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