The American home is becoming a little more crowded these days. More and more families are choosing to have multiple generations living under the same roof. The term is “multi-generational” housing, which typically means three generations under one roof, and an estimated 51.5 million people are now living this way.
This idea was born out of a trend that became popular during times of recession, when families doubled up to share expenses, struggling kids moved back home with parents, families lost homes and moved in with siblings, or parents settled in with their children’s families. They were often forced to live in a guest bedroom or if they were lucky, a master suite. They did not have an independent living space, but instead they resided in somewhat cramped quarters.
A more comfortable solution is now available. Home builders are creating house designs that will accommodate this lifestyle. The concept is to create a house-within-a-house. The homes look like any other home, but includes a separate, private, “almost” complete apartment. The apartment typically features a bedroom, bathroom, living area, kitchenette, and discreet private entrance. However, it does lack a stove, which would qualify it as an apartment in most zoning codes. Builders and remodelers are also incorporating universal design features; better lighting, wider doors and hallways, fewer or no steps; that all work well for wheelchairs and baby strollers.
The home designs allow occupants to decide how to spend their days; as part of a group or on their own when “alone time” is needed. There are many different dynamics for which this housing concept is ideal:
- Taking care of aging parents vs. putting them into expensive skilled-nursing or assisted living facilities
- Sharing a home with a widowed parent who may not enjoy living alone
- Accommodating adult children with special needs
- Sharing living expenses with another family or family member
- Children going to college who may live at home or who return home frequently
- Single parents needing help with daycare or raising children can share a home with other family members or another single parent
- Living quarters for a full-time, live-in caretaker
- Cultural preferences
A multi-generational home offers a common-sense solution to an increasingly common housing situation but has its own set of challenges. Not only must you take local zoning codes into consideration, these homes really only work well on large residential lots, preferably at least 6,000 SF, which can be hard to find especially in urban areas.
While the trend is not skyrocketing in popularity, there is a clear niche for this type of property. Many builders are anticipating that the demand for these homes will continue to increase. This housing is more than just a recession buster, it can change lifestyles. Families may be coming together because of the economy, but they are staying together because it works!