According to the latest findings of the UNSW’s Built Environment’s City Futures Research Centre, about 20% of the country’s population lives in multigenerational homes. These are the young happy families who took in their doting grandparents, the Gen Y and Z’s in their 20s who are saving up for their future, and the millennials who needed to move back in with their parents because of a significant life event, or to help them save for a deposit for their own home.
Intergenerational living arrangements like these are perfectly normal and there’s an increasing number of Australian families who are embracing this communal living setup. They are building family compounds to accommodate everyone’s needs, until they can finally say “the more, the merrier”.
Why multigenerational households in the suburbs are on the rise
There are many reasons why modern families are adopting multigenerational living arrangements. Yes, relieving financial pressure is the main reason for most individuals, but many people find the idea of having their family around to be priceless.
Here are some real-life situations that compel some people to live in extended-family households:
- For many people who lost their jobs due to the global pandemic, removing rent from their expenses and moving back to suburban areas to live with family and relatives is a sound decision. Living in the suburbs is more affordable and by doing so, they avoid exhausting their savings.
- Many retirees who live alone often sell their homes to raise funds for aged care services. However, due to the frightening quality of some aged care facilities, many families choose to take care of their ageing parents themselves. Taking them in ensures that their elderly relatives are well looked after. Instead of paying for aged care services, these retirees financially support their children when they extend their homes or build a second dwelling to accommodate them.
- Traffic congestion is not an issue in the suburbs, which attracts many families who are looking for their forever home.
- Properties in the suburbs are still expensive but more affordable than those in the city. Many millennials can afford to buy bigger lots and build bigger homes here.
- More and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home (permanently or for several days a week). This new setup allows their employees to spend more time with their loved ones at home.
- When both parents have jobs, they often ask their relatives/parents to watch the kids while they’re out. It’s easier for the grandparents to spend time with their grandkids when they live in the same place. This gives both parents the opportunity to earn more and build their careers. Many households save money when the children are being looked after by their own too.
Multigenerational living is a great option when it is your desire to keep your loved ones close. It’s nice to be connected with the people who matter most in this busy and fast-paced world of ours.
However, communal living is not as easy as you might think. For one, you should expect some drama when you have three (or more) generations under one roof.
Privacy is also a major issue in extended-family households. This is when design consultants like us come into the picture.
Intergenerational home designs and multi-use spaces that work
Planning and designing a home for intergenerational living is different from a regular home. Our designers, who are experts in this kind of project, always:
- Ensure that there is enough space for everyone who will live in the home, and that there is adequate room for a growing family.
- Create multi-use spaces that everyone will enjoy. This is the heart of your multi-generational home!
- Prioritise the privacy of all occupants.
- Create many bedrooms so everyone has a space to call their own. Of course, we place the bedrooms for the elderly members of the family on the ground floor so they don’t have to go up and down the stairs.
Of course, it is crucial to get to know you and your family before making any design recommendations. There is a “sweet spot” in your shared living arrangement that your designer must understand to deliver the home that you and your family will enjoy.
Popular multigenerational home designs
There are many ways of building multi-generational houses in Australia. Here are your options:
Renovation and conversion
Most families opt to renovate their current home and convert a part of it into a second dwelling. Here, the families involved really live in the same home. The two households share a roof, a wall, and a few spaces like the kitchen, laundry, alfresco areas, home theatre, etc.
If you are taking this route, consider having these features in your home:
- Multiple living areas and lounges
- Spacious kitchen with tons of storage
- Large walk-in pantry
- Multiple bathrooms and powder rooms on every floor
- Ensuites for all adult bedrooms
- Ground floor master suites for senior family members
- Study nooks and home offices
- A dedicated space for bonding and playing with the kids
- Address acoustics
Dual occupancy or duplexes
Another option is to build a dual occupancy structure or a duplex. In one of our previous blogs about duplexes, we defined this as a structure with two independent and self-contained residences in one lot. The structures share a roof, a wall, and a fence. Both houses have separate driveways and entrances. Both houses have the same complete amenities too.
This is a great option for families who like intergenerational living without losing their autonomy over their own homes.
Granny flats or ancillary dwellings
Another popular way to create a family compound is by building a granny flat. It’s a compact and self-contained dwelling that you can build separately or integrate into the main house.
A granny flat has the all the major facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom, living area, and a bedroom ⸺ everything laid out in a space-efficient way. This allows the occupants to live separately from the main house.
There are cases when the homeowner renovates their garage into a granny flat to make it more functional. Read our blog about garage conversions to learn more.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of converting their garage into a completely livable and self-contained space. However, there is a granny flat look-a-like that you can build above a garage. This is called a Fonzie Flat.
To simplify, there are three ways to build an intergenerational home. You can:
- Convert your existing home to accommodate the multigenerational living set ups.
- Build a secondary dwelling separately from the main house.
- Extend your existing home horizontally or vertically to create more livable spaces.
Building multigenerational homes in 2021?
Now that working from home is widely accepted, many young Australian families are moving out to more desired neighbourhoods away from the city. They are buying bigger lots and building bigger houses to accommodate their growing family. They want to establish their lives in a great community that’s not far from their loved ones. Plus, if ever their circumstances should change, they have space for their family to move in.
As the trend towards multigenerational living continues to rise, do not lose sight of what’s really important: building a healthy home where you and your family can grow old in. Seek advice from design and construction professionals here at Superdraft before you decide to build. We can provide expert advice on how to get started and take on this type of project.