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The Big Answer


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Under One Roof, Building for Extended Families

an article in The New York Times by Penelope Green

(our site's article review)

Penelope Green reports on the way houses are changing to accomodate households that are changing. We seem to be expressing the modern age, architecturally, by creating pre-LITB (Leave it to Beaver) homes set up with extended—not nuclear—families in mind. As she tells it, "big builders are now offering to accommodate the changing shape of the American family: boomer couples with boomerang children and aging parents, an increasingly multiethnic population with a tradition of housing three generations under one roof, and even singles who may need to double up with siblings or friends in this fraught economic climate." (Boomerang children are adult young people who return to the parental home to live while they work as unpaid interns or study for another degree, since MBA degrees create a lot more interest from employers than BA or [aptly-named] BS degrees.)

A boomerang 'child,' which is an adult young person who will return to the parental home to live
A boomerang 'child,' which is an adult young person who will return to the parental home to live


Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

Nuclear family dwellings for two-parent families are still quite realistic for MCs (microcommunities). Also see Why Register for an MC?. Just because both boomerang children and aging parents often come back to the boomer couple's nest doesn't mean that most people are fine with living with elder parents and/or boomerang children only a thin wall away. Most would prefer elders or adult children live next door, not in the next room. No matter how much you care about your kids or parents, it does not mean that you want to be tripping over them every time you turn around, or be putting up with having to hear the type of music that they listen to but you may dislike, or be coping with their friends whom you may also dislike.

No matter how much you like someone, it doesn't mean you want to put up with hearing their type of music
No matter how much you like someone, it doesn't mean you want to put up with hearing their type of music

On the other hand, the new multigenerational houses may work great for people who are not that bothered by these things. Non-MC families sometimes get along fine in close proximity with one another—especially multiethnic people with a tradition of housing three generations under one roof. The same goes for some MC families. The multigenerational houses may be just the thing to keep costs down. But keep in mind that MCs will work great if the physical plan is from 4 to 10 houses all on the same block and on the same side of the street so a fence can surround the whole MC, mostly so that the youngest members are free to explore safely. Or the MC can be some or all of the units on one floor of an apartment building.

Either multigenerational houses or LITB two-parent houses will work fine in an MC, as long as the members are comfortable with the close proximity in multigenerational houses or can afford enough LITB houses for all MC families. Note that more than 50 million Americans are in multigenerational households currently (2012). Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/us/building-homes-for-modern-multigenerational-families.html?_r=0

More than 50 million Americans were in multigenerational households in 2012
More than 50 million Americans were in multigenerational households in 2012

Quite a few over-the-garage apartments are being built due not only to the aging of the population and adult children living at home, but because sometimes relatives and/or friends lose their jobs to downsizing or outsourcing and no one wants to see them endure homelessness. When new construction or remodels are taking place, more and more of the customers are asking for multigenerational styles and over-the-garage apartments as well as flex-rooms that can easily accomodate diverse needs. (For more on the issues faced by adult children living at home, see It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave.)

When new construction or remodels are taking place, more and more of the customers are asking for multigenerational styles and over-the-garage apartments
When new construction or remodels are taking place, more and more of the customers are asking for multigenerational styles and over-the-garage apartments

Some of the zoning laws around the country are obsolete and established when LITB homes were being built in droves. The “granny flat” or “mother-in-law apartment” will often either require changes in laws or variances to be accepted somehow. In some localities, laws permit larger homes to be turned into duplexes to accomodate totally separate families.

An elder cottage
An elder cottage

We need homes for the way real people are living today. And this can sometimes mean multigenerational houses. What will work even better for people wanting to engender optimal caregiving of kids and/or elders (as well as change caregiving from a big expense to free, in addition to being conveniently near the best friends they've ever had and saving all the money and time that it used to take to travel to them) is MCs in which many types of homes can work well—including LITB homes, duplexes, remodels, apartments, granny flats, mother-in-law apartments, and over-the-garage apartments.

We need homes for the way real people are living today
We need homes for the way real people are living today