Open Market

Multigenerational living - Being more creative with open market housing

Multigenerational living on the rise in the UK, with the number of households that include at least three generations steadily increasing. The multi-generational house is one where more of us should be living. Not only is it cheaper for families to live and eat and learn together, but its helps parents cover alarmingly high child care costs, and it helps the elderly from feeling alone.

Are we as a nation too ready to ignore our older generations and entrust them to a care home or the government? Do we expect them to sell their homes to
pay for elderly care and spend their lives reminiscing about the past?

What some might see as a new trend is actually a resurrected old trend. In the United States extended family members tended to live close together until after
World War II, when young people began to leave their hometowns and move to the city. Soon a home of one’s own was seen as a measure of success.

Today many families are redrawing that picture of success. To them, success means choosing a way of living that best utilises the resources of the extended
family, while fostering closeness. To them, multigenerational living is not a way to live, but a way to thrive.

Context

Research compiled by the NHBC Foundation shows that more than 1.8 million households in Britain contain two or more adult generations, yet most homes
on the market continue to be built to a traditional family home layout, without consideration for the shift towards multigenerational living.

The NHBC Foundation report: Multigenerational living – an opportunity for UK house builders? outlines the factors behind the trend using statistical analysis
as well as interviews with families. The report finds that the number of multigenerational households in the UK increased by 38% between 2009 and 2014, a rise driven largely by the number of adults aged over 25 who live with their parents. In contrast, the number of multigenerational families with grandparents living with them remained static during this period.

Although some people chose this lifestyle out of financial necessity, the report found that there was a variety of reasons why multigenerational households
were popular, including pooling resources to buy a larger property, help with childcare and providing support for older family members. Others enjoyed the
social benefit of living with more than one generation of their family.

– There is an estimated demand for 125,000 additional multigenerational homes per year in the UK
– Nearly 7% of UK households contain two or more adult generations
– Four out of five multigenerational households are White British, although some ethnic minority groups are more likely to adopt this lifestyle
– Multigenerational households are typically not large – the average two-adult generation household contains three people and the average multigenerational home has three bedrooms

Research

House builders here have developed specific designs aimed at this sector, such the USA firm which markets a “NextGen” home with the slogan, “For the family you’re raising and the family that raised you”.

Sarah, who took part in the survey and lives with her husband, parents and two young sons said, “It just works so well for us, the whole family living situation. You’ve got privacy when you want it, you’ve got support when you need it, you’ve got company when you want it. It’s just so fantastic for my kids to be brought up in this environment. I don’t think any of us will have a desire to change it.”

NHBC Head of Research and Innovation Neil Smith said, “Multigenerational living offers a range of opportunities to house builders, from the targeting of suitable existing home designs to this market, to designing new homes with flexible layouts to suit different household compositions throughout a lifetime.”

He added, “Multigenerational living is recognised in other countries as a contributor to improved wellbeing and the more efficient use of housing stock. This report will help us to recognise these benefits as we strive to deliver a modern and relevant house-building programme within the UK.”

Main conclusions

Size of multigenerational households: the majority of multigenerational households are smaller than often portrayed. The most common household size is just three people. Such households do not necessarily require large homes to live together comfortably. Many existing designs may be suitable for these households.

Trend towards multigenerational living: in the UK approximately 125,000 families per year are adopting a multigenerational lifestyle: a significant potential opportunity for UK house builders.

Social benefits: Though not everyone’s choice, families that chose a multigenerational lifestyle recognised social advantages including having more family time together, social contact and support for younger and older family members in particular.

Opportunities for government: multigenerational homes potentially contribute to more efficient use of housing and could play a part in addressing some of the
immediate social and health challenges faced by the nation

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