Whether it’s saving for a house or because of an unexpected life event, many young Australians find themselves living with their parents for longer than they anticipated or at an unexpected point in life. But there’s an increasing number of families who choose to live under the same roof as their parents or in-laws for a variety of reasons.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics by 2041, almost a million adults could be sharing a house with extended family members. Many developers are now starting to offer floor plans that cater for multigenerational living in response to this trend. Some claim up to a third of all homes they build are to support intergenerational households, including grandparents, parents and their children living together.
This is supported by research from UNSW City Futures Research Centre, which reveals 20% of Australians live in a multigenerational household. For those living in Sydney, that figure jumps to around a quarter. The reasons for this are many, but generally, reduced living costs, increasing quality time together, and assistance with caring for children or older relatives are chief among them.
What’s the best type of home for multigenerational living?
Selecting a home for people at different stages of life can be challenging but depending on how much – or little – interaction you want, a range of options are becoming popular for intergenerational households.
- Apartments in the same complex. This can be an ideal situation if you want proximity but also privacy. Some families are buying two separate units, or two adjoining units connected via a common doorway. This is a great way to expand your floor space while still enjoying the cost benefits of apartment living.
- Townhouse or duplex living. This is a good option for those who want the benefits of a house but with fewer expenses and less maintenance. Similar to adjoining units, this gives the two parties independence and privacy while still remaining under one roof.
- Granny flats. This is a versatile option for those who want to have their loved ones close by while also having a space that could be adapted for other uses in the future. Many Australian families now want to provide care for ageing relatives. In response to this, the federal government recently introduced capital gains tax breaks when a granny flat is used to house older Australians or those with a disability.
- A larger family home. This is becoming increasingly popular as families seek to divide chores and spend more time together operating as a single-family unit. Having more adults contributing to expenses also potentially allows for the purchase of a much larger home with lower running costs per person.
These trends have also prompted an obvious need for the reinvention of home design to create a space in which several generations can live comfortably.
Combining the needs of people in three (or more) different stages of life can be tricky, but when done right, you can create a home that works for everyone and even adds value to your property.
Some things to consider:
- Multiple living areas. While open-plan living is a popular choice for many, when you have a big household, there may be merit in separating the living and dining areas and having multiple rumpus/living rooms to cater for different noise and entertainment preferences.
- Design with safety in mind. It might seem like a good space-saving idea to have a shower over the bath, but this is a huge slipping hazard for people of all ages. Ensure the kitchen and at least one master bedroom, bathroom, and living area are located on the ground floor, not only for convenience but also for the safety of older household members.
- Consider noise pollution. When deciding where the TV will go and where to place study and work areas, give thought to the times of day these areas will be used and by who. Avoid placing TV or games areas next to bedrooms and also give consideration to where the kitchen is, as grinding coffee or making smoothies can be just as disruptive as a late-night sports event on TV.
- Design for future sale or profit. If you’re designing a large home with multiple living areas and potentially even more than one kitchen, think about how this area could be sectioned off from the main house at a future date. This could be rented out for profit or potentially sold to another owner in the case of a duplex design.
When done right, the multigenerational home can provide a range of benefits, not only in terms of building stronger family relationships but also delivering cost savings and investment potential.