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The growing need for multigenerational homes

By Mike Wheatley | May 9, 2019

The average home could be in for a significant redesign due to the growing number of people looking for a property that can accommodate multiple generations.

A recent survey from John Burns Real Estate Consulting shows that up to 41% of Americans are considering buying a home to accommodate either an adult child or an elderly parent. And that reality will have a big influence of the kind of home they purchase.

But options are limited as much of the current housing stock is full of single-family homes that aren’t suited to multi generations living under the same roof.

True multigenerational homes make up just a small segment of the current housing stock, and that’s forced many families to renovate their homes to cater for aging parents and older children.

At least some homebuilders are responding. A batch of new homes these days feature multigeneration floor plans that contain enough space for all who intend to live in it. In 2011 for example, Lennar started building its Next Gen brand of homes with the tag line “Two homes. Under one roof”. The homes are currently sold in 13 different states.

True multigenerational homes generally have separate entrances and garages and are often said to have an “in-law unit”. Those units have their own living spaces and kitchen.

But architects say we’ll need more of these homes and that in the end, the market may well respond with more general changes in homes. Back in 1980, just 12% of Americans lived in a multigenerational home, but that figure has since grown to 20%, or around 64 million people in total.

Another factor to consider is that Americans are living longer, with a life expectancy of 78. High living costs and loneliness may be contributing towards more families deciding to live together.

“The emphasis on physical and financial independence at every stage of adulthood has high incurred costs,” Fast Company reported. The current housing stock, however, is mostly centered on independence and privacy, which doesn’t quite fit the merging of households.

“I think there’s a tighter connection just generationally between young adults and their parents,” Chris Porter, an analyst at John Burns Real Estate Consulting who tracks housing trends, told Fast Company. That connection is prompting changes in senior housing. “We’re seeing the golf course as less of an amenity these days for senior housing. The real amenity for seniors is being near their kids and grandkids. I think that comes back to that connection between the boomers and their kids.”

A second option of course might be cohousing. This concept, which involves private homes sharing community spaces and other resources, is growing fast in the US and can take on many forms. The most common type though is senior-based cohousing, which is seen as an alternative to traditional senior homes. There are around 170 cohousing communities in the US at present.

The only thing that’s clear now is that the impact of meeting the needs of aging-in-place and multigenerational households is a pressing one, researchers say.

“American cities and suburbs will need to undergo a radical change in response to climate change, shifting away from single-family homes and toward denser housing typologies, away from personal vehicles and toward public transit, walkability, and shared cars, away from independence and towards resource sharing. Ironically, we stand to benefit from those changes as we age,” Fast Company reported.

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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