Recent events have brought the distance between family members into sharp focus, so it’s only natural to start thinking about moving loved ones closer and providing a roof over the heads of those who need support. Multigenerational living, however, isn’t anything new.
Parents, grandparents and children living under the same roof is still commonplace in mainland Europe – the comforting presence of ‘Nonna’ cooking pasta in an Italian kitchen comes to mind – but even here in the UK, more than one generation sharing the same house was commonplace up until World War II.
When the post-war middle classes grew in wealth and mobility, we shook off the image of crammed family homes in favour of independent living and more personal space. Now, however, there are indications we are returning to the idea of multi-generational living.
Aviva’s How We Live report, released in late 2020, found an upwards trend in the extended family set up – with a third of UK households now multi-generational. This is mainly made up of adult children living with their parents but the rate of older relatives living with their younger family is on the rise – standing at 14% now compared with just 9% when the same report was collated in 2016.
Modern reasons for multi-generational living
- Lack of affordable housing for first-time buyers, leaving them to reside with parents while they save up for a deposit
- The ‘Boomerang’ generation – adults returning to the family nest after university, between renting and buying a property, or after a change in circumstances
- Older adults moving in with their grown-up children for healthcare needs and everyday living support
- Grandparents moving in with families to help provide childcare and share living costs
- A lack of specific retirement and assisted living properties
- Inability to afford private care homes in later life
- Isolation, disconnection due to geography and general feelings of loneliness
Making multi-generational living happen
Many movers are finding their next home will need to accommodate more than just their immediate family – with the spotlight now on who makes up a household. Planning an extended family residence can be exciting but there are a few considerations too.
The granny annexe: an old idea with new provenance
Having a separate space for additional family members is growing in popularity. Aviva’s report found 1 in 20 UK households (5%) already have a granny annexe, with converted garages, cellars and separate outbuildings providing extra accommodation. A further 7% of householders say they have plans to develop this type of space in the future.
Attached or not?
One of the biggest considerations of multigenerational living is how close is close enough? A true annexe is a separate building within the grounds of a home, with its own entrance and facilities. This is most commonly a converted outbuilding or detached garage. If you’re thinking of adding an annexe for residential use, you will need to check with your local council’s planning department for any permission needed, and establish whether the annexe qualifies as a separate dwelling with its own council tax and utility bills.
Alternatives to increase space and capacity for family members include converting the loft, extending the existing property out to the side or up, or converting a dining room and utility, for instance, into another bedroom and a shower room. There are some great ideas, as well as food for thought, in this Grand Designs article on multigenerational living.
Self-contained or communal?
Anticipated levels of privacy, dependence and social interaction also need consideration. Whether you’re comfortable sharing a kitchen and bathroom facilities will influence how you remodel an existing dwelling or what floor plan you’ll need should you be buying a property to accommodate more family members.
The age of everyone under the same roof also matters – a young adult will not have the same needs as an elderly parent, for instance. Planning for health and mobility issues should be factored in too, as will the size of the property – especially if there’s potential for an ‘empty nest’ later on. A big home may prove costly to run in the future if only one generation remains.
The estate agents’ view
The good news is there is a growing demand for larger houses and properties with separate annexes. We can help if you would like to sell a home suitable for multigenerational living, or if you’re looking for a property where lots of family members can live together. Contact us for advice today.
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