Multigenerational Living is Back

The concept of multiple generations living in the same house is nothing new.

Multigenerational households declined in popularity after World War II, but they’re on the rise again in a big way.

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 51 million Americans (or 16.7 percent of the population) live in a house with at least two adult generations, or a grandparent and at least one other generation. Pew also reported a 10.5 percent increase in multigenerational households from 2007 to 2009.

One driver of this trend is changing demographics. While one would normally expect baby boomers to be downsizing at this stage of their lives, quite a few are actually trading up. Boomers are sometimes referred to as “the Sandwich Generation” because they have children still living at home as well as elderly parents.

Second, the recession triggered a wave of so-called “boomerang kids” moving back in with their parents because they couldn’t support themselves financially. There’s also the surge in immigration that started around 1970, dominated by Asians and those from Latin America, who are much more inclined than native-born Americans to live in multigenerational households.

For economic as well as psychological reasons, many boomers don’t want to put Grandma and Grandpa in an assisted-living facility or nursing home. Instead, they’re purchasing new homes where everyone can spend quality time together as a family as well as have independence and privacy. 

Multigenerational Housing

In response to the growing number of boomers taking care of elderly relatives in their homes, many builders have made the first-floor bedroom suite a standard feature, says Joan Marcus-Colvin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for The New Home Company (TNHC), Aliso Viejo, Calif.

But homes geared specifically to multigenerational buyers are on the cutting edge of design. They often include self-contained, apartment-like living areas with a bedroom, a full bath, a kitchenette, a separate entrance and sometimes a laundry room and garage. Although the western states, especially California, are ahead of the curve, these multigenerational floorplans are gradually making their way east. 

Based on extensive consumer research, TNHC and Robert Hidey Architects of Irvine, Calif., developed floor plans for Irvine’s Lambert Ranch. The community features large single-family homes with various options for extended families, including 800-sq.-ft., detached guest houses; “living suites” with kitchenettes and separate entrances and compound-like estates with shared courtyards.

“We have this multifaceted approach to multigenerational because we figured not everyone’s going to have the same family these days,” says Marcus-Colvin. “We learned that the most successful solution was the detached guest house. It’s in such close proximity to the main house that [although it offers] privacy, it’s very connected.” 

One couple that purchased at Lambert Ranch had married later in life. Each spouse had three children from a previous marriage. “They took the maximum number of bedrooms in the guest house so the two returning college kids could live there, and the younger kids in the main house,” she says.

“In the majority of our floor plans, there was an option to convert one of the downstairs bedrooms to a lock-off suite,” says Jose Alkon, sales manager for Lambert Ranch. “We would add a door to the exterior from the bedroom to provide a private entrance, and there would also be a door to the main house so they could maintain that connection.” 

In just over a year, all 169 homes at Lambert Ranch were sold, ranging from 2,730 to 4,876 sq. ft. and priced from the $900,000s to $1.5 million. TNHC is now selling multigenerational homes at Villa Metro in Santa Clarita, Calif. — since Villa Metro opened in August 2013, 34 of 60 homes have been sold.