Is multigenerational living the new normal?
There are a number of factors that explain the increase in Vancouver’s multigenerational households: immigration, the delayed marriage pattern, longer life expectancy, the housing crisis, boomerang youth, women entering the workforce, and the effects of the rising interest rates. Multiple kitchens, separate entrances, and more than one master suite are the norm in these dwellings that are priced for close to a million dollars.
Multigenerational living (also known as ‘sandwich living’) is when a home, or a plot of land, is reconfigured for two related families to live on. These types of homes are becoming a trend and we may see multigenerational living become more and more popular over the next few years. Statistics Canada data shows that 4.8% of children aged 14 and under live in a household with at least one grandparent. Similarly, 8.0% of those aged 80 and older live with relatives. Their data also showed that 42.3% of Canadian young adults aged 20 to 29 live in the parental home. These statistics reflect the growing attractiveness and value of multigenerational living situations. This trend is particularly strong in high-priced housing markets such as Vancouver and Toronto.
As Canada’s population continues to age, the number of Canadians over 65 will surpass the number of those under 30. This means that multigenerational living situations that include both grandparents and young children is set to become far more popular. Therefore, new and developing communities are responding to these needs with the construction of more multigenerational neighbourhoods and home options.
What does a multigenerational home look like?
Room for boomers, babies, and everyone. A multigenerational home can come in a variety of styles so it’s important to have your home properly assessed so that you can see what options are available to you. For instance, if you are planning on renovating for a multigenerational household, you might consider putting on an addition. This will not only give everyone more room, it will also give both you and your live-in family members more privacy.
In addition to the necessities of a bedroom and full bathroom, having a private entrance and small kitchenette in an in-law suite will go a long way towards making someone feel “at home” in their own space. In many cultures, multigenerational households are pretty standard; your parents took care of you, and now you take care of them. In China, almost every apartment sold has three bedrooms: one for the parents, one for the kid, and one for grandma.
Some terms you’ll hear in association with multigenerational housing are “Sandwich Generation” and “Boomerang Kids.” Boomerang Kids are named for the adult children who choose to return to sharing a home with their parents after previously living on their own. Parents of millennials who are taking care of aging or ailing parents plus their millennial children are referred to as the Sandwich Generation.
Lane homes are another great example. Sometimes called laneway houses or coach houses, lane homes are smaller detached homes located at the rear of a property. They can be built in place of a current structure, like a garage, or on land that’s not currently being used to its full potential, if the property size permits. Lane homes are an ideal solution for families who need extra space for grandparents, older children, or guests, while retaining a higher level of privacy and separation than that of a basement or in-law suite.
Some home owners may want to consider having their accessory buildings converted. Many outdoor structures could be repurposed to support a multigenerational family, including attached or detached garages, sheds, playhouses, storage buildings, garden structures, greenhouses, private studios, boat houses, pool houses, cabanas, and other similar residential buildings.
The more the merrier, the importance of private spaces
For privacy in a multigenerational household the goal is to be separate yet connected. A separate living space that is in the confines of a single family home allows for more than one generation to live together, yet still have necessary privacy. When considering the floorplan design for these new multigenerational homes, there are 2 key elements that must be included: privacy and flexibility.
How are multi-gen homes different to design?
A multigenerational home considers more groups of people. When you design a home, all users’ needs should be considered. Things like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms are obvious, but others may not. Is it important to your family that all children sleep on the same level as the parents? What kind of age-in-place considerations should be made for your parents as they get older? What spaces are you comfortable sharing with your children and parents? Which spaces are you not?
These questions and many more are important when designing a space to be functional for multiple parties. The number of people that a home is designed to house affects other aspects of the building too. Utilities such as electrical, water and gas services need to provide adequate resources so that your house functions properly. You might also want to look at more efficient furnaces, ventilation and water heating systems to keep costs down over time and occupant health as well as comfort high.
A win-win if done right, what are the perks of close quarters?
Multigenerational family living comes with many different types of benefits for everyone involved. There are many upsides to this type of living, including childcare, stronger relationships, and cost sharing. Also, as Baby Boomers are living longer (and facing increasing healthcare costs) multigenerational living provides a way for parents to simultaneously take care of their children and their own parents. These days, it’s typical for both partners to have demanding careers which makes childcare an important issue for many families.
If grandparents are in good health and willing, they could help care for young children while they live on the property. Many families are realizing that the grandparents or other family members are the best people to help with childcare and raising the next generation.
There is no replacement when it comes to a close-knit family. Living in a multigenerational household is also good for the senior generation who can suffer from loneliness in their final years. This type of living can help support their mental health in their later years and may even slow their physical deterioration. What better way to live the rest of your life than by being amongst your loved ones?
Additionally, rooms need to be designed so family members can respect each other’s preferences and leave them unchanged. For instance, a large open kitchen, with ample preparation and storage space, allows family members to prepare and consume their meals at any time of day while not affecting other family members. Working together can also be helped in this way – so that while children might be having an early dinner, adults can be preparing another meal and grandparents could be making lunches for the next day.
Consider outsourcing. If, say, cleaning is a major source of contention for your family, it may make sense to pool together resources and hire a housecleaner to come every week or so. The benefit of living together means being able to use all your resources — both time and money — for the good of the family, so indulging in outsourcing certain chores could make sense for everyone in the family.
All in the family – how does this help financially?
A multigenerational home can allow a family to pool their combined resources to expand their properties. This makes it more affordable for everyone involved. Multigenerational housing options provide financial relief while strengthening family bonds. One common scenario are young adult children living in a multifamily household. They can save money while going to school, and after graduation while they find a job, or save money to buy a home of their own.
Moving out during or after university is simply not an option anymore for a lot of students. This is also true for many of our older relatives, for whom living alone is not financially viable either. Even though the recession officially ended seven years ago, the number of multigenerational homes continues to grow. The economic benefits of sharing services can be substantial. Grandparents and older family members can provide child care, while younger adults can care for elderly relatives. Travel costs to visit family members are reduced, since members don’t have to pay for gas or airfare to visit.
There’s savings to be had by having family close by. There is also the problem of finance — huge mortgages can stretch family budgets and put the relationships with in them under stress. Whether through helping to pay for the costs of home ownership or by helping solve household needs such as childcare, there is without any doubt many financial benefits to the cost sharing that a multigenerational household can achieve.
Design and Build Multigenerational Renovations
6 Design features that make multigenerational floorplans work!
One of the most important considerations in multigenerational home design is to ensure access and safety for all – from the youngest to the oldest generation. The demand for amenities that cater to the needs of older people, including elevators and bathrooms with grab bars, taller commodes, and wider doors for wheelchairs or walkers.
We often began to think of mobility and accessibility within our homes as we age or see our parents age. But rather than an afterthought, a focus on universal design helps create a home that can be used by people of all ages, abilities and mobility levels, without the need for adaptation or specialised interventions. For many, this will include the removal of steps and split levels, the provision of wide corridors and open spaces as well as the use of sliding doors and non-slip surfaces.
A multigenerational home may require a second master bedroom (preferably on the first floor) with its own bathroom. This allows for easier access and more privacy, and also gives older parents the opportunity to feel like they have their own spaces, even in a shared home.
The ultimate solution for making multigenerational living work for your family, is to incorporate an actual in-law suite or mini-apartment with a kitchenette and its own entrance. But beware of potential hurdles caused by zoning restrictions.
Universal design works hand-in-hand with flexible spaces to create environments that are usable by all people. Hallways that are wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair, walk-in showers, and zero entry thresholds are classic examples of universal design features. Segregated living areas as well as large open spaces with the right amenities to accommodate multiple functions help keep harmony among the generations. Built-in storage or shelving can help keep floor space free from toys and clutter that present a safety hazard for seniors.
Multigenerational homes need to support a family as it grows, changes and evolves – for this reason, rooms should not be customized to the point where they are not adaptable. When planning for multiple functions, the trick is not to design or customise an area to the point where it can’t be modified. A bedroom should be able to become a study, then a play-room, then a media room and respond to the families’ needs over time. Forward planning of utilities such as plumbing and electrical wiring, even internal framing, is therefore crucial, and can potentially save costly renovations in the future.
With the rise of modular construction versus traditional homes, multigenerational housing began to be re-imagined with phased building programs, portability, seamless expansion and inexpensive reconfigurations becoming part of the conversation. It has given families, architects and designers a host of new options when planning a house’s lifecycle – paving the way to radically change the way we view the built environment.
Multi-Gen Perks Overview
Consider yourself a candidate for multigenerational living if
- You need to care for aging parents who can no longer live on their own.
- You want your parents to be close with their grandkids as they grow up.
- You need help with child care, and grandparents are willing to fill that role.
- Both generations want to live together to ease the burden of living expenses.
The dynamics of family structures have shifted over the years, as well as the cost of living which has only increased. Thus, multigenerational living has become an attractive option. In many ways, multigenerational living is a return to a more traditional family arrangement where people live together with their extended family rather than in smaller households. Historically, it’s no wonder that many people lived this way, as there are many benefits, including those related to childcare, relationships, and finances.
Multigenerational Living Design Consultations
Whether you live in Vancouver, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, Surrey, White Rock or anywhere else in the Greater Vancouver area, you should consider if a multigenerational living arrangement might be right for your family. If you think it could be, we would be happy to assess your home and help you determine what possibilities it might offer.