Goodnight, John Boy

As more and more adult children are prevented from leaving the parental nest by the rising cost of housing, some households are re-thinking the options.

Many of us remember the 1970s TV series The Waltons, which followed three generations of a Virginia family living under one roof through the Great Depression and World War Two.  In 1940, it is estimated that 25% of the US population lived with three (or more) generations together, although this figure reduced to 12% by 1980.  A recent report suggests that the trend is again growing, and that 20% of Americans now live in multi-generational households.

Aviva forecasts that in the UK the number of households with two or more families will rise from 1.5 million to 2.2 million by 2025, and that 3.8 million people aged 21-34 will be living with their parents.

It seems that the trend for multi-generational living is not financially driven alone.  Research has shown that children who grow up having contact with their grandparents do better at school and have fewer emotional and behavioural problems.

One property developer in America, Lennar homes, is taking multi-generational living a step further by marketing purpose-built homes that can accommodate several generations under one roof, with its ‘NextGen’ designs.

Two homes, under one roof, the company promises, but NextGen homes don’t just offer spare bedrooms or ‘granny flats’.  Homes have separate entrances, living spaces, garages and even heating zones, where family members can co-exist under the same roof – while at the same, the options relieve some of the potentially hazardous and ‘irritating’ aspects of communal living.  Cleaning, cooking or whether to have the TV on, for instance, or the privacy to make those parenting decisions your own parents might not agree with.

The company has now built over 200 multi-generational communities, and other builders are joining the market.  For those who have already signed up to the scheme, agreeing common household rules in advance has made the arrangement easier – organising expenses and deciding whether to have a television in a common living area, being seen as especially important.

One family felt it had brought them closer, although they acknowledge it isn’t for everyone.  “Don’t do it if you don’t have love for each other, a commitment to living life together, and an ability to compromise,” one member of the family said.  “For us, it was the right thing at the right place at the right time – and it works.”


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