There Could Be a Problem With ‘Multigen’ Homes
May 7, 2019
Housing is poised for a significant redesign from a growing number of households looking for properties that accommodate multiple generations under one roof. Up to 41% of Americans in the market to buy a home say they’re considering accommodating an elderly parent or an adult child, according to a new survey from John Burns Real Estate Consulting. That will likely influence the homes they choose to buy.
However, the current housing stock is dominated by single-family homes that aren’t designed to fit multiple generations living in the same home.
Homes designed for multigenerational living is a small segment of the housing market today. Some families have renovated their homes to accommodate aging parents or aging children.
Some major homebuilders have been responding with multiple-generation floor plans that make space for three or more generations in one household. For example, in 2011, Lennar began offering its Next Gen brand under the tag line, “Two homes. Under one roof.” It offers models of its Next Gen line of homes in 13 states.
A multigenerational home typically consists of separate entrances and garages and is often presented as having an “in-law” unit. Those units usually have their own kitchen and living spaces, too.
Architects say that the design of housing will need to respond to accommodate the changes in households. In 1980, only 12% of Americans lived in a multigenerational household, but that has now grown to 20%—or 64 million—of Americans who have two or more adult generations in a single household, according to the Pew Research Center.
Americans are living longer—now to the average age of 78. The cost and isolation of living alone may be prompting more families to come together.
“The emphasis on physical and financial independence at every stage of adulthood has high incurred costs,” Fast Company reports. America’s current housing stock, however, has 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,” says Chris Porter, an analyst at John Burns Real Estate Consulting who tracks housing trends. 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.”
But when living in a multigenerational household isn’t an option, cohousing may be. Cohousing is also growing in the U.S. The term reflects a group of private homes that share community spaces and resources. It can take many forms. But one way it’s growing is through senior-focused cohousing, which offers seniors the ability to age in place and also serves as an alternative to senior-living complexes. There are more than 170 cohousing communities in the U.S.
Many changes will likely influence American neighborhoods going forward, but 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 reports.
Updated: May 20, 2022