Multi Generational Housing


The surprising reason for Multi Generational Housing’s popularity

It’s not baby boomers that are fueling this trend to Multi-Generational Housing, but the Millennials.

When I was a kid in New Jersey, we had dinner every Sunday at Nana’s house. I’m sure if I visited the house today it would not be as be large as it looms in my memory, but the Sunday dinner table always seemed full of, at the very least, three generations.  The house was a three story house with an apartment on the first floor and an attic that had two “extra” bedrooms. “Kristni Papa” slept up there (sort of a Slovak Godfather name).  There were aunts, uncles and new cousins, and often three tables set up for dinner.  Nana never ate with us, she just hovered around serving more food. In ethnic households it always seems that is was food that brought the family together.

More and more today multiple generations are living together, and not coming together for the food – it’s more likely to be the economy and health that brings them together. There are more homes being built for this purpose and indeed existing houses are being re-purposed as multi-generational housing – for retirees, and for millennials as well as those in between.

Millennials Living with Family

mulit-generational housing need increasesAccording to a study done by the Pew Research Center, even though the job market is getting better for millennials, more and more millennials are opting to stay with their family, “the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds are less likely to be living independently of their families and establishing their own households today than they were in the depths of the Great Recession.” Interestingly, Pew points out that the millennials are having a major impacts on the growth multi-generational housing.

In 2012 over 18% of the population lived in multi generational housing, and this is double the number from 25 years ago. “Historically, the nation’s oldest Americans have been the age group most likely to live in multi-generational households. But in recent years, younger adults have surpassed older adults in this regard. In 2012, 22.7% of adults ages 85 and older lived in a multi-generational household, just shy of the 23.6% of adults ages 25 to 34 in the same situation.”

The largest percentage of the multi-generational homes are ethic based families (no surprise to any one with a strong ethnic culture). This study was completed two years ago – I am sure the trend is continuing and as the baby boomers age you will see more and more multi-generational housing being built for this need.

Multi Generational Housing Trends

Tips to working things out

Often there is not enough time to plan ahead, a loved one passes suddenly or someone’s health deteriorates quickly. For a child that has never really fully moved out, the multi generational home comes more naturally, but whether it was planned way ahead or not and whether or not it is your retired parents or you college graduate son, there are some guidelines you should follow:

  1. Set expectations. Set up a formal time to discuss the expectations of everyone involved. This includes topics such as the length of the arrangement to how expenses will be handled, as well as entertaining and parking. All parties should make their own notes and then post your list of agreed upon points on one document and all should initial it – just so as memories fade and expectations change you can refer to it.
  2. Set a budget. Who is going to pay for what and on what basis are the expenses split? A good idea here would be to revisit this on a monthly or quarterly bases. Go over the savings that occur as well.
  3. Set responsibilities. Who exactly is going to do what? From simple things like buying the consumables like the cleaning supplies, to who is actually going to clean.
  4. Common versus private areas. What are they and  how will they be maintained and used?
  5. Meals.  Will you dine together? Who will cook? What about he food budget? Some things are commons, some not. The kids, for example, are not going to want to pay for Grandpa’s prune juice.
  6. Entertaining. Where? How often? What happens to the rest of the family?
  7. Exit Strategy.  If not everybody is happy with he arrangement, how do they get out?  How will it end?

There is more success with multi-generational housing the closer the family is culturally and the more clearly the expectations are set and met.

The physical layout of the home will improve the odds of success:

  1. Separate common areas – like two living rooms or two cooking areas.
  2. Dividing walls – I have seen duplexes with a “granny-door” – a connecting door that can he be shut and opened depending on the circumstances.
  3. Bathrooms – dedicated to each family.
  4. Private entrance – to a “wing” or part of the house.

Be mindful of local codes and zoning. Some local codes, for example, will not allow a “second apartment” in the house, but a totally separate living area without a kitchen with a private entrance will be OK.

Also see Co-Housing


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