New housing caters to changing families

Charlotte Observer

From the outside, the new home in Waxhaw, N.C., doesn’t seem all that different from the other houses on the street.

But it has one major feature that the others don’t: Inside this home is another one.

It’s folded into the main house so inconspicuously that a passerby probably would not do a double-take. From the street, it appears to be just a ground-level room facing the front lawn.

It’s more than a room, though. It’s a suite with the basics found in a normal house: a bedroom, a bathroom, a living/kitchen area, space for a washer and dryer — even its own front door, which is mere feet from that of the main home.

Miami-based Lennar Corp., the builder of the “Next Gen” home, is gearing it toward a very specific market: multigenerational households. Lennar sees dollar signs in the societal trend of aging parents moving in with their children as health-care costs rise and college students choosing to live with Mom and Dad as they struggle to find work in a still-rocky economy.

“Next Gen really is a series of homes designed to cater to the changing family in America today,” said Jon Hardy, president of Lennar’s Charlotte, N.C., division.

Columbus, Ohio-based M/I Homes is in the design phase for multigenerational homes that the company plans to build, said Tamara Lynch, vice president of sales and marketing for the company’s Charlotte operation.

Lynch, who would not disclose locations, said M/I will put the spaces for extended families on top of garages, rather than connected to a main home. Construction won’t begin on those homes until next year, she said.

It’s a sign of the times that more families are seeking multigenerational housing, experts say.

Lynch said some cultures in the U.S. value living with other family members.

According to Generations United, a Washington, D.C.-based group, immigrants to the U.S. are more likely to live in multigenerational homes. M/I will be designing its proposed new homes with those people in mind, not just college graduates who are trying to break into the job market, she said.

Generations United also said the Great Recession has accelerated the rise in U.S. multigenerational households, which increased from 46.5 million in 2007 to 51.4 million by the end of 2009.

According to a 2012 report from the Pew Research Center, 3 in 10 parents said an adult child decided to live with them because of the economy.

Pew said at the time that the share of Americans living in multigenerational family households was the highest it had been since the 1950s.

Lynch, of M/I Homes, said multigenerational homes have been sprouting in the West and eventually will make their way to the rest of the country, moving east as housing trends often do.

“We, as builders, are being challenged by the top architects to stretch our thinking in this regard,” she said.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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