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Multi-generational housing could be the way of the future

by Corben Grant on 14 Dec 2021

It’s more clear now than ever that our traditional ideas of housing are being greatly challenged by the current conditions of the world. With that in mind, many people are turning to housing alternatives that offer different lifestyles. One growing trend in Canada's major cities and beyond is multi-generational housing.

A multi-generational household is defined in Canada as a household in which at least three generations of a family live under the same roof. Despite the recent growth, this style of living is really not new whatsoever.

Though many young adults dream of moving out of their parent's home to start life on their own, many more are now considering multi-generational living as the more realistic option.

This trend is growing especially fast as the high cost of homes in urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver continues to rise, and the pandemic causes many to reexamine their living situations. What can multigenerational housing mean for your family, the real estate buying process, and is it right for you?

The trend of multi-generational housing is on the rise

Even before the recent impacts of the Pandemic, Canadian's were choosing to live together with multiple generations in increasing numbers. Canadian census data from 2016 indicates that while the single-family home is still the most popular arrangement, at that time multi-generational families were the fastest-growing household type in the country. While only 3% of homes in the country were living with this arrangement, the segment saw an increase of over 37% since the year 2001. The 2021 census data is set to come out next year, so it will be interesting to see how these trends have developed since then.

Benefits of living with a multi-generational family

More options for when buying

The financial aspect of homebuying is the biggest boundary for most people looking to buy real estate. Multi-generational housing offers different opportunities when it comes to buying that single-family home buyers may not have.

With multiple generations, you are drawing from a potentially much larger income, which gives you access to the greater housing stock. Multigenerational homes may have as many as four or more earners able to contribute to paying a down payment and mortgage payments. This can help you buy homes that otherwise were outside of your price range.

This also offers some security if one of the homeowners experiences a job loss, for example, the others will be more suited to help carry the mortgage.Opportunities to care for both older and younger family members

One thing that has become clear in recent years is the dismal condition of many of the long-term care facilities in Canada. In the coming years, the aging population will start to require more care, and the nursing and retirement homes will simply not cut it, leaving the younger generations with the responsibility. In a multigenerational home, aging parents can receive care from their adult children conveniently.

For those with young children, grandparents can help their adult children with child care and have a larger part in their grandchildren’s lives as a result. This also allows young parents to save money on childcare expenses.

Family time

One reason people enjoy multi-generational housing is for the strong family relations they can build. Most families only get together for special occasions, but if you live together you have more opportunities to strengthen family relationships. And, family members will often make much more comfortable living partners than roommates who you do not know as well.

Environmental concerns

With concerns around the environment becoming more and more pressing every year, high-density housing such as multi-generational homes is one way to combat the ecological footprint of our modern lifestyles.

These homes take up less space and energy per inhabitant and have other benefits such as potentially reducing the number of cars per household.

It also takes some burden off of the sheer number of homes that are needed to be built to keep up with Canada’s growing population. Regardless of how developers claim to use sustainable practices, home development often has at least some effect on the environment.

Multi-generational households common in other parts of the world

It is also notable that while multi-generational homes were traditionally less common in Canada, this is not the case all around the world. Outside of the western world, it is very common for older people to live with their families rather than to live alone.

Every year, Canada welcomes thousands of people of numerous different traditions, who are more comfortable with living under one roof with their families. In addition, immigrant families may want to stick together to avoid separating their families further than international migration already can.

Are there downsides to multi-generational living?

Living space

One of the biggest downsides of multigenerational living is the question of space. If too many people live under one roof with not enough living space, it can be easy for tension to arise. Most homes on the market are not necessarily designed with this living arrangement in mind, so finding the right space can be crucial.

Finding that perfect spot

In addition, though multi-generational homes may have a higher purchasing power, you are also forced to contend with the preferences of multiple family members when it comes to making the ideal choice.

When it comes to different generations, each has different needs both for the home and its location. If you have trouble delegating and compromising with your family, this can squash the multi-generational project before it even gets off the ground.

Other options to consider

If living directly with family is not for you, you may want to consider a home with an in-law suite, or multiple separate units, so you can still live in proximity while having your own self-contained spaces. Choosing to live in a multi-family home with friends can also offer some of the same benefits without the family aspect.

What does it mean for the future?

The rise of multigenerational housing could mean changes in the way we design houses and cities, in order to accommodate the growth of multigenerational families. It could also lead to a boom in renovations as people try to make space for extended families in the property they already own.

Overall, the rise of multi-generational housing could change the face of Canadian housing in the near future and may be a good answer for you if you are having trouble finding the right home for you.



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