In this article you will learn about:
- The concept of multi-generation accommodation
- Why it is becoming more common
- The advantages of multi-generational households
- Our changing requirements from housing
- Examples of multi-generation housing developments
- A forecast for the concept of more than one generation sharing the same address
To find out all about it, read on!
What is multi-generational housing?
Accommodation which incorporates living space for more than one generation can be termed multi-generation housing; as a concept it could alleviate a range of housing challenges and while there are presently few examples in the UK, the initiative is increasingly popular in the US and around the world.
The idea of multiple generations living under the same roof is hardly new; it has happened throughout history, since people lived together in caves for safety and support. The granny flat is a familiar way of ensuring that an older relative is accounted for, and communal modern living offers the same benefits for an extended family, alongside financial reasons such as possibly one mortgage and shared expenses. For some, it can offer a practical, affordable option along with the benefit of quality family time.
Multi-generation housing could be a method of countering the effects of rising house prices, the cost of childcare and lack of elderly social care, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS, 2020). Research by commercial real estate services company, CBRE, finds that 1.8m UK households now contain two or more adult generations, an increase of 38% in just 10 years. Factors which have led to this include a lack of affordable housing and the trend for adult children living with their parents longer in order to save money for a house deposit.
CBRE forecasts that multi-generational housing could have tripled by 2040, citing reasons including a lack of retirement homes, increasing housing costs and grown up children living with parents, all set against a background of likely house price increases and an ageing population. Such findings may crystallise people’s ideas about multi-generation households as it becomes increasingly difficult for young people to afford their own place.
Advantages of multi-generational households
- The potential for making childcare and caring for older family members more affordable.
- Future-proofing homes: creative layouts could include separate space for each generation which is easily adaptable to cater for changing requirements such as aging parents, grown up children coming back from university, an extended family, boomerang children, a nanny, family members with special needs and visitors.
- A 2019 study carried out by University College London that found that increased contact between 50–70-year-olds can be associated with a lower risk of dementia. A study by the University of Alaska and Anchorage revealed that children mixing with older people can demonstrate improved language, reading and social skills (RICS, 2020).
- While the trend for this living arrangement was growing pre-pandemic, the model has made creating support bubbles between for example, three generations, easy during lockdowns.
- Multi-generation living can be attractive for health or financial reasons.
Modern living means changing requirements from our homes
Many traditional houses are being redesigned to accommodate an extra generation and properties with potential for such conversion are much in demand, implying a market for new-build homes which are adaptable for all stages of life, following the concept of suitability from the pram to the wheelchair. Lobbying is being carried out by The Centre for Aging Better charity which has launched Housing Made for Everyone, a coalition including housing organisations and national housebuilders all aiming to achieve a regulatory baseline for new-build homes.
Rethinking our housing
However, a lack of public sector support and insufficient housing policies to encourage multi-generational homes were identified in a research study titled: `Rethinking Intergenerational Housing’ by Matter Architecture which began in 2019. The study found that people are living increasingly isolated lives, demonstrating a need for housing that offers social benefits, good design providing areas for personal space along with effective management.
Projects were identified which could mutually benefit multiple generations by focusing on common parts, facilities, shared space and management, however, all the options came up against problems in delivery. Ideas included a rent-a-room scheme whereby older homeowners rent out a room to a young person for low rent or no rent in return for companionship and light support, and a model involving students supporting older people for low rent or rent-free accommodation within existing care homes, giving some support and interaction.
Both schemes, however, were found to be difficult to manage and find appropriate matches for. Other ideas included purpose-built mutual development homes: affordable rented accommodation for young and old people, offering interaction and shared public facilities, and self-governing mixed communities with different tenures, shared facilities and services.
This brings together two unrelated parties, one being an elderly person who needs some help to live independently. While there are just 22 Homeshare schemes operating in the UK, the market is more mature in the US and innovative models exist internationally.
Co-housing schemes began in Denmark in the 1970s; they are community created and run by residents, each comprising a self-contained private home with shared community space. In the UK there are over 20 co-housing communities, including a project in Barnet, London, which is home to women aged over 50. Another example In Holland involves a nursing home in which students live alongside elderly residents, paying a reduced accommodation fee alongside a commitment to spend 30 hours a month socialising with residents; similar schemes operate in the US and Canada. CBRE predicts that there will be more multi-generational housing in cities: such initiatives could be replicated in our university cities, potentially helping students fund their degrees.
Sited at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, this multi-generational living scheme features a main house connected by a shared courtyard to a separate unit; it enables living together but apart and properties are adaptable as the needs of occupants change.
This is a multi-generational co-housing scheme in Cambridge that aims to promote community, highlighting social interaction and mutual support. The development has an old-fashioned neighbourhood feel and it specifically caters for older women.
Independent living units
These are being built for the over 55s and include flats for students who pay a reduced rent in return for offering help; for instance, art students might hold workshops or help with shopping. The idea of two-way support contributes to the aging community by combating loneliness, while helping reduce mental health problems in students.
Research shows that our housing model is outdated as we face a looming crisis in social care, special needs care, affordable housing and loneliness levels: issues which all affect the health of the population and increase costs for society. Multi-generational homes come in many different forms and while there are still limited examples, ideas about feasible alternative ways of living are evolving; there are however, problems to overcome such as the high levels of management and difficulties in scaling up efficiently.
Multi-generation living needs to benefit all the age groups concerned and must incorporate good design and personal space; the challenge now is for housing providers to create better solutions to make it a viable option against the backdrop of the UK’s continuing housing crisis.
What is your view?
Do you think multi-generational living options are a positive addition to the property scene? Let us know what you think.
CBRE. Multi-generational housing. [Online]. Available from: https://www.cbre.co.uk/research-and-reports/our-cities/multi-generational-housing (Accessed 22nd September 2021)
Matter Architecture. 2019. Intergenerational housing. [Online]. Available from: https://www.matterarchitecture.uk/research/intergenerational-housing/ (Accessed 22ndSeptember 2021)
Matter Architecture. 2019. Rethinking Intergenerational Housing. [Online]. Available from: http://www.matterarchitecture.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/442_Matter-intergen-Nov19.pdf(Accessed 22nd September 2021)
RICS. 2020. All together now; multi-generational housing. [Online]. Available from: https://ww3.rics.org/uk/en/modus/built-environment/homes-and-communities/all-together-now–mult-igenerational-living.html (Accessed 22nd September 2021)