Multi-generational living…making it work

Times have certainly changed. I’m only 40 years old and for my generation it all seemed quite straightforward when it came to homes, where we lived and who we lived with at different stages of our lives. My simple story, common to many, is was that I lived with my parents until I was 18 and  went to university. I continued my long university career renting rooms in the cheapest places possible and then, when I qualified as an architect, I managed to take my first step onto the property ladder without having to go bcd to my live with my parents. I’m hoping I’ll then grow old in the home I’ve chosen to stay in and hopefully I won’t be a burden to my kids by keeping my independence in my old age. As I say, it’s a fairly straightforward linear path I’m taking that many my age will also take.
But how much it has changed in just one generation. Everyday, because of the horrendous housing crisis, I hear stories about young people who simply cannot afford to get onto the property ladder. It is now more common for graduate students to go back home for many years after university rather than buy or rent their own home as it is simply unaffordable. The average age of a first time buyer in the UK is a staggering 37 years of age, increasing to 38 in high value areas like London, which is frankly ridiculous! Parents are then under pressure to finance their children for far longer then they had planned and if their kids do push to buy somewhere they often ask the ‘bank of mum and dad’ to fund the first property purchase. Again, this is an unsustainable situation.
At the other end of the age spectrum the elderly are living a lot longer, which is obviously great news in many ways, but as many struggle to live on their own it is becoming far more common for elderly parents to move in with their children for support.
One way of tackling all of these issues is to begin thinking about your home as becoming a well-designed 21st Century multi-generational home. When multi-generation living occurs it is quite often through financial need or difficult family situations or because you have made the positive and conscious decision to be a closer family all under the same roof. Whichever way you have arrived at the decision to take up multigenerational living you will need to adapt your home to suit these big changes, because if you don’t master plan your home to work for everyone then it will soon become an incredibly stressful place to live.
Changing your existing home into a multi-generational home can be easier than you think. Here are a number of things you can do to gain extra space  while at the same time creating make semi-private and private spaces so everyone doesn’t fall out!
Loft extensions and ground floor extensions are a great way of adding more space to gain extra bedrooms for either your kids coming back home or your parents moving in. The kids always prefer the loft room and the elderly parents always prefer the ground floor room as they don’t have to negotiate the stairs with dodgy knees. I always think its better if any additional bedrooms are designed to feel a bit like hotel rooms so they have their own en-suite bathroom,  little seating/living area, their own TV and their own small desk and maybe even tea and coffee making facitilities. If you want to give your kids or parents even more independence you can even design in a small kitchenette so they can cook small simple meals for themselves without having to use the main kitchen in the house.
A garden studio building or ‘granny annex’ is a brilliant way of giving members of your family a lot of independence while being a short walk from the main house. But, you have to be very careful though when it comes to gaining planning permission and building regulations for these types of structures. Personally, I don’t see a problem having members of your own immediate family living in well designed structures at the end of your garden, but many planning departments don’t have the same view.
Adding a new basement under your home, which is very much an ‘out of sight space’ is another great way of creating self-contained accommodation. You may also be able to provide a secondary entrance into the space from your front garden depending on the planning regulations in your borough. This is a brilliant way of your kids being in the same house, but in their own space beneath you, but new basements can be quite expensive.
If you can’t afford to add any significant amount of extra space to create your multi-generational home, then by simply adding en-suite bathrooms to existing bedrooms and creating small additional living/TV spaces away from the main living room can be enough for either your kids or parents to escape to can be enough for people to have their own privacy. Just think of how a small B+B works in a standard house type and you’ll begin to understand how to redesign your rooms.
Multi-generational living may not be for everyone, but while the housing crisis continues it could prove to be a great way of providing good quality housing for everyone at home, while at the same time bringing the family unit even closer together. And if you’ve got any young kids at home you might even benefit form a bit of free babysitting! Good luck!

 

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