7 New Laws Take Effect in Chicago for 2021. Here's a Look at What's Changing

The new laws include everything from a minimum wage hike to new restrictions for speeding tickets

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Chicago officials are hoping to inform residents about a number of new laws "they should be aware of" in the city for 2021.

“As we enter 2021 with renewed hope, the city is working to implement new laws passed this year that make our city safer, more equitable and more sustainable,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “These laws affect everyone from workers and small businesses to travelers and home-owners, and we want to make sure that everyone is aware of the regulations and deadlines that affect their lives.”  

The new laws include everything from a minimum wage hike to new restrictions for speeding tickets.

Here's a look at seven changes in store for the New Year:

Minimum Wage  

On July 1, 2021, as part of an ordinance passed in 2019, Chicago’s minimum wage will increase to $15 an hour at large businesses and $14.50 an hour for workers at businesses with 20 or fewer employees. Also on July 1, the minimum wage for tipped workers will increase to $9.00 an hour, with employees required to make up the difference if base wage plus tips do not equal $15.00 an hour.

Shared Housing

In September 2020, City Council passed an ordinance that reforms the regulation of the Shared Housing industry in Chicago.

"As part of this landmark ordinance, a series of new regulatory measures will come into effect on April 1, 2021 that will ensure public safety and accountability within the industry," the mayor's office said in a release.

Under the new measures, those who use Airbnb or HomeAway, and other similar platforms, to rent their residential units will now need to apply directly with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and pay a new $125 registration fee.

Accessory Dwelling Unit Legalization  

Starting May 1, 2021, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) will be legalized in five areas around the city, the mayor's office said.

The new program will mean attics, basements and coach houses will be lawfully permitted in certain zones. As part of the plan, the Department of Housing will evaluate and report on ADU activities for three years. After that, the department will make recommendations on whether to create a permanent citywide policy.

The areas where legalized accessory dwelling units are allowed include: 

  • North zone covering parts of the West Ridge, Edgewater, Uptown, Lake View, North Center, and Lincoln Square community areas; 
  • Northwest zone covering parts of the Albany Park, Irving Park, Avondale, Hermosa, Logan Square, West Town, Near West Side, and East Garfield Park community areas; 
  • West zone covering parts of the East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, North Lawndale, and South Lawndale (Little Village) community areas; 
  • South zone covering parts of the Ashburn, Auburn Gresham, West Lawn, Chicago Lawn, Washington Heights, Roseland, Chatham, Greater Grand Crossing, Englewood, West Englewood, Washington Park, and Woodlawn community areas; and, 
  • Southeast zone covering parts of the South Chicago, East Side, South Deering, and Hegewisch community areas. 

The mayor's office says the new law will increase "access to safe, affordable housing for thousands of Chicagoans."

Extension of Business Relief 

In order to bring relief to businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, the city is "extending critical relief efforts and renewal dates into 2021," the mayor's office said.

Under the new law, all existing sidewalk cafes can continue to operate until May 1, 2021 without needing to renew or pay a renewal fee.

In additional, all expired business and vehicle licenses between March 15, 2020 and June 15, 2021 will not need to pay a renewal fee until July 15, 2021. Those with expired licenses during that time will have until July 15, 2021 to renew without paying a late fee.  

Vehicle Fuel Tax and Cloud Tax   

A series of increases in taxes and fees came into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

A vehicle fuel tax increased by $0.03 per gallon on non-aviation purchases. To fill up a 12-gallon gas tank, motorists will see an increase of roughly $0.36, the mayor's office said.

There will also be a 1.75 percentage point increase to the cloud tax, which, according to the mayor's office, is applied to "computer leases of cloud software and cloud infrastructure."

"This tax aligns with the tax imposed on all other lease, rental or use of rented, personal property currently taxed at 9 percent," a release states.

The tax increases were part of the city's plan to close an historic $1.2 billion deficit.

Parking Meter Rates  

Parking meter rates for the $2-per-hour zone increased to $2.25 per hour on Jan. 2. Rates in the $4.50 and $7.00 zone remain unchanged, however.

Automated Speed Enforcement     

Beginning on March 1, anyone driving 6-10 miles per hour over the speed limit in speed camera zones will receive a ticket.

Those traveling traveling 6-10 MPH over the speed limit will be fined $35 and vehicles driving 11 miles or more over the speed limit will be fined $100.

Starting on Jan. 15, a 44-day warning period will begin for those caught speeding between 6 and 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Those drivers will receive a warning by mail. 

A map of the City's speed cameras and Children's SafetyZones can be found at https://webapps1.chicago.gov/traffic/.

Illinois Laws in 2021

Click here for a full look at laws the took effect across the state for the New Year.

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