Multi-generational Housing…Are We Going Back To Our Roots?

There was a time, not so long ago in American life where multiple generations of family members lived together.  It was not uncommon for elderly parents to move in with their children rather than move out to a nursing home.

According to this article, by the Pew Research Foundation, there might be a return to the days of old.  For a number of reasons, Americans are increasingly choosing to live within a multi-generational household.  Here in West Michigan, I’ve observed this trend increasing in popularity. Over the past decade, I’ve assisted several families who were looking for living arrangements which would allow a parent to move in or an adult child to have some privacy and flexibility while residing in the family home.

Unfortunately, finding the right house has also been a challenge.  Within the past several decades, homes have increasingly been designed to address the needs of the nuclear family and we’ve sometimes found it difficult to locate an appropriate residence.   Sometimes, it’s been a function of the space, but often it’s been more about design which does not take into account the potential for a different approach to home life.   In addition, home building has declined within the past couple of years as many builders in West Michigan have been forced out of business due to an acutely challenging economic crisis.

But here are a few reasons why this trend might reverse in the future.  Here are a few of the issues addressed in the research.

1.  Folks are choosing to delay marriage…

The article notes that the median age for marriage in America has increased five years for both men and women.  Today, more individuals are waiting to tie the knot…for men ~ 28 years on average and for women, 26 years.  Since many individuals move out of their family home and establish a new household when they get married, this additional 5 year period reflects a significant increase in the number of folks for whom a multi-generational living situation is an attractive option.

2.  Loving Mom’s home cooking…

One interesting trend observed in the study relates to young adults, many of who are moving back home (aka the ‘boomerang’ effect) after completing their higher education due to the difficulty in finding viable employment.  It’s much less expensive to try to secure a job in the market place if  one is not worrying about the additional expense of rent and food or at least sharing some of these costs.  Homes designed with separate entry/exits and privacy and which include the option for kitchens, extra garages and laundry facilities are especially attractive.

3. Immigration…

For many people around the world, living within a multi-generational context is the norm and considered a cultural benefit.  Multiple generations of families can support each other through the challenges of child rearing, finances and old age.  The wisdom of the elderly is especially prized in many cultures and when people immigrate to the United States, these attitudes towards multi-generational living are incorporated into their experience within their adopted country.  This is not unlike the views held by many European settlers who came to America during earlier migrations.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.  I’m curious to know if you are observing this in your area of the country?