Mapping Chicago’s Snow Removal Complaints

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I have for many years been waiting for Chicago to make public their data on the complaints received by the 311 department about unshoveled sidewalks. They have finally granted my wish. Unfortunately the data has become available at a time when Google is shutting down their Fusion Tables service, so I had to learn how to use a new service to create the necessary map. Because of course there was going to be a map.

In this article I take a look at the data that has accrued since the start of this past October, meaning we have only two really big snowstorms worth of data to consider. Those two snowstorms yielded about 1200 complaints to 311. I think that is more than enough for now. Continue reading Mapping Chicago’s Snow Removal Complaints

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

The Rise and Fall of Chicago’s Courtyard Apartment Buildings

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If you’ve rented in Chicago for very long you’ve probably lived in a courtyard apartment building. If not, you’ve probably at least visited someone who lives in one. There’s thousands of them all throughout the city, with the exception of the downtown areas which are dominated by skyscrapers. A standard “U”-shaped courtyard building is a three story tall walkup building with five entrances surrounding a central green space. Each entrance usually has six apartments, sometimes seven or eight if there’s finished basement apartments.

In addition to the standard U shape, there’s also half courtyards (shaped like an “L”), 1.5 courtyards (shaped like an “S” and usually on block corners) and double courtyards (shaped like a “W”), but they’re all basically similar. These buildings are unique to the Chicago area and almost invariably about 100 years old.

Today we’re going to explore the reason why we’ve got so many of them, and also why we don’t see many new ones popping up in the 21st century landscape. Continue reading The Rise and Fall of Chicago’s Courtyard Apartment Buildings

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Irish Landlords, Eccentric Landladies: The Ngrams of Rental Housing

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This post contains a small amount of profanity for pseudo-scientific purposes.

If I were to ask you for the first word that comes into your mind when I say “stepmother,” I would guess that for most of you the answer would be “evil” or “wicked.” In the field of linguistics, the phrases “evil stepmother” and “wicked stepmother” are known as bigrams.

A bigram is a combination of two “tokens” (such as words or letters) that appear frequently together in spoken words or printed text. In today’s article we’re focusing on two-word combos. There are larger word groupings used by linguistic scientists which are all collectively referred to as ngrams. Today we’ll be seeking out the most popular adjective + noun bigrams from various sources as they pertain to the rental industry. Continue reading Irish Landlords, Eccentric Landladies: The Ngrams of Rental Housing

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Classified History: Housing Ads in Chicago 1901-1933

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I’m back with another trawl through the Chicago Tribune archives, looking at classified ads placed for apartments throughout the city’s history. This is the third installment. I’ve previously covered the periods of 1849 – 1870 (Early Days) and 1871 – 1900 (Great Fire and World’s Fair #1). Today we’ll be looking at the era from 1901 to 1933, an era spanning two depressions, the Roaring Twenties, World War I and another World’s Fair. Since the majority of Chicago renters still moved on May 1 during this era I’ll be bouncing from April to April to find the newspaper issues that had the most ads to pick from.

This is the first era we’ve covered where many of the listed buildings may still be standing. The bulk of Chicago’s “vintage” apartment buildings were constructed during these three decades. Continue reading Classified History: Housing Ads in Chicago 1901-1933

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Off-Campus Housing Studies: Think Tanks and Apartment Scholarship

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been looking at the groups across the US that focus on research into apartments, multifamily housing, and related landlord-tenant matters. I started with a comparison of the abundant research into tenant matters and low income housing against the scarce research into landlord matters. I then moved on to a roundup of the recent research papers released by graduate and doctoral students across the US. Last week I provided a list of the universities and colleges across the country with centers or departments dedicated to housing studies.

But not all housing-related scholarship occurs on college campuses. The US also has a large number of think tanks, corporate groups which focus on research and advocacy. Some are for-profit, most are non-profit. Most are based in Washington, DC. Continue reading Off-Campus Housing Studies: Think Tanks and Apartment Scholarship

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.