Multi-Generational Living: A New Home Design Is Gaining Ground

Multi-Generational Living

One of the fastest-growing categories in home building is multi-generational living. 


A record number of Americans live in multi-generational households today, according to Generations United™ (GU), a national organization focused on improving the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational strategies, programs, and public policies.

Although the trend began before the economic downturn, the Recession has fueled a dramatic rise in U.S. multi-generational households from 46.5 million in 2007 to 51.4 million by the end of 2009 – a 10.5 percent increase in just three years.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines multi-generational families as those consisting of more than two generations living under the same roof. Many researchers also include households with a grandparent and at least one other generation.

Today more than 51.4 million Americans of all ages – or about one in six – live in multi-generational households. Some choose to live together; others form because of the widespread impact of the nation’s economic downturn and uncertain recovery. According to GU, one of the main motivators is compassion. When elderly relatives become frail or have trouble making ends meet, adult family members take them into their homes and become caregivers while often experiencing economic stress themselves. 

Similarly, when young adults cannot find work or have trouble caring for their children, they come home to their parents.  Whatever the reasons, multi-generational households are becoming an increasingly important part of the   socio-economic fabric. 


Why Now?

To explore that question, GU recently commissioned a nationwide survey by Harris Interactive.  The survey revealed that 66 percent of adult respondents living in a multi-generational household reported that the current

economic climate was a factor, with 21 percent reporting that it was the only factor. For 40 percent of respondents, job loss, change in job status, or underemployment was the reason their family became a multi-generational household. While 20 percent cited health care costs with prompting them to form a multigenerational household, 14 percent reported that foreclosure or other housing loss was the catalyst. 

When several age groups living together within a consolidated space, there are bound to be issues, GU members point out.  For example, it may take some time for each family member to find a comfortable level of involvement in each other’s lives. Members of the middle generation may feel stress from balancing the needs of their parents and children. In many cases, there are renovations necessary to accommodate the physical needs of family members, such as a ramp for wheelchairs or child-proofed rooms. Providing privacy for each person is another concern. 


Builders Step Up

At last year’s International Builders’ Show in Orlando, one of the showhomes on tour featured a separate apartment that was only accessible from external stairs for increased privacy. 

More builders are responding to the trend of multi-generational living with floorplans that reflect this dynamic. The year 2013 will see an increase in this type of home plan. 

According to GU, some new housing developments have studio 

apartments on the first floor with wider hallways and lower light switches for wheelchair accessibility and more states and cities are rewriting zoning laws to allow for granny or mother-in-law apartments on the land of single-family homes. 

In addition, GU has recently consulted with real estate developers interested in building the communities of the future. These developers reported a decline in the interest in “sun cities” and an increase in the appeal of multi-generational communities.

One of the national builders that has embraced the concept is Lennar, which rolled out its NextGen™ – The Home Within a Home® two years ago and has been regularly unveiling NextGen communities in Arizona, California, Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Texas, and Washington ever since.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring a new home design solution to our customers. The NextGen is very popular with not only our multi-generational buyer, but also with telecommuters, people with home offices, those who have long-term guests, and even customers who want a man-cave,” says Matt Devereaux , director/sales & marketing of Lennar’s Southwest Florida division.

In the Florida communities, there are two floor plans: the Liberation and Independence. Each feature separate living quarters for the elderly adult, active adult, or children and both home plans feature five and six bedrooms, three-and-a-half and four bathrooms, and range from 3,357 to 3,867 square feet. The Liberation home design comes with two separate driveways with a single car garage for the suite and a two-car garage for the main house.

In California, the Lennar Next Gen communities also boast a complete suite with a bedroom, eat-in kitchenette, and living room that can either be integrated into a home’s living space or kept as a private residence.

“This is extremely exciting for our company and to our customers and we are thrilled to be able to bring this ground-breaking floorplan to the area,” says Greg McGuff, division president of Lennar’s Inland Empire office.  “We are constantly keeping our finger on the pulse of new trends in homebuilding – and these floorplans are taking the company to the next level of innovation in homebuilding and providing homebuyers with even more flexibility and choices in the way they live like never before.”

Lennar’s floorplan can accommodate different living arrangements while providing a great use of space, square footage, and privacy. “We have created this plan to allow for dual living situations without sacrificing comfort. It’s a brand new idea and we are already seeing a huge amount of interest.”  

The suite in the California NextGen models includes a separate entrance, living space, kitchenette, bedroom, full bath, stacked washer and dryer, and intimate outdoor living space. As with the rest of the NextGen styles, the suite’s floorplan can be incorporated into the main home in a way that allows it to be a separate space, but also offers direct access from the main house depending on the family’s needs.


Lighting Stores Take Note

If it’s not part of your normal set of questions when meeting with clients for a lighting consultation, make sure to determine not only the number of people will be living in the home but also the ages of each. 

The elderly require much more light than middle-aged residents, whose needs for adequate illumination are different from their children.  If a separate suite is part of the home plans, the lighting scheme for that space should be treated specifically with the occupant of that suite space in mind. Motion/occupancy sensors and pathway lighting to/from the bathroom or kitchen might be very important to senior residents and reduce the risk of falls, while having good task lighting at a desk area or computer station might be the most helpful for young children or students to combat eye fatigue while studying or doing homework. The flexibility that dimmers and control systems provide are especially useful for people of all ages and should always be included as part of the lighting plan.  


Types of Multi-generational Households

Multi-generational households come in all shapes and sizes. A few common types include:

Three-generation: This is the most common multi-generational household arrangement  and consists of three generations – typically one or more working-age adults, one or more of their children (who may also be adults), and either aging parent(s) or grandchildren. 

Grandfamilies: There are also growing numbers of grandfamilies –  households headed by an older individual or couple who live with grandchildren under age 18.

Two adult generations: Most two-generation households consist of parent(s) and child(ren) under the ages of 18 to 22. However, households with “boomerangs” are on the rise – grown children who because of unemployment, underemployment or other reasons return to their childhood household.

 Four-generation: Once a rarity except in some lower-income ethnic communities, the four- or even five-generation household – parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, adult children, their children – is more commonplace and socioeconomically significant.

Source: Generations United


Major Factors Leading to the Increase in Multigenerational Households


  •   Slower Starts: People are marrying later. More unmarried 20-somethings continue to live with their parents, by choice or economic necessity.   
  • Immigration: Latin Americans and Asians have immigrated to the U.S. in large numbers. Immigrants are more likely to live in multi-generational families.   
  • Availability of Kin: There are more Baby Boomers currently financially secure and able to offer their parents a place to live in their old age while providing a home to their own children.
  • Health and Disability Issues: Increasing numbers of Americans of all ages suffer from chronic conditions and disabilities. They may move in with family members to gain access to caregivers for themselves and/or their children.  
  • Economic Conditions: During the Recession, many Americans struggle with job loss or other forms of reduced income. Sharing household expenses across generations make them more manageable. The high cost of living, especially high housing costs, may be a reason for families to “double up.” Expenses of non-family child care and elder care also may be important and found to be met more easily under one roof. An older relative may outlive their retirement savings or a family member may need to pay off school loans.  
  • Situational Reasons: Unemployment, divorce, or military deployment of a spouse may require moving in with parents or children. Welfare reform legislation passed in 1996 requires that teenage mothers must live with a responsible adult in order to receive benefits. A widow or widower may be unable to live alone or be lonely and seek companionship. Young parents may have demanding jobs that require long hours and travel and find older relatives willing to move in and help with shepherding children to activities and with homework.

 Source: Generations United









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