Demand swells for multi-generational housing

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In response to the number of families doubling up, builders are introducing new designs that offer independence and privacy as well as togetherness.

September 07, 2012

One reason for the growing number of multi-generational households is the recession, but it’s also a lifestyle choice. Plenty of statistics bear this out. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that multi-generational households (consisting of three or more generations of parents and their families) increased by 30 percent between 2000 and 2010. The Pew Research Center notes that the number of Americans living in multi-generational households has been increasing about 2 percent annually from 1980 to 2006. Between 2007 and 2009, though, that population soared 10.5 percent.

Multi-generational households are especially common among Latinos and Asians. According to Pew, in 2009, 23.4 percent of Latino households and 25.9 percent of Asian households were multi-generational.

“They value living that way,” says Las Vegas architect Howard Perlman. “There’s a positive aspect to having children grow up in the same house as their grandparents.”

Perlman speaks from experience, having grown up in a Chicago two-flat with his parents and grandparents. But as a design professional, he wanted to go beyond the spare bedroom typically designated nowadays for elderly relatives, designing a single-family home with a lock-off suite that would fit on a traditional size lot. This “home within a home” includes a living room, bedroom, full bath, kitchenette, washer/dryer, and private entrance.

Perlman pitched the idea to various builders in the Southwest. The first one to take the plunge was Lennar Corp.

Next Gen maximizes flexibility

The lock-off suite, or “home within a home,” is an attractive feature for families who are doubling up, says Lennar’s Jeremy Parness.


Lennar started working with Perlman Design Group in 2011 on floor plans with lock-off suites. The new product line, Next Gen, is now being offered across the country. While the builder declined to reveal the number of Next Gen homes sold to date, “We are very happy with our results so far,” says Jeremy Parness, president of the Las Vegas division.

One of the most popular plans is the Columbus, a 3,487-square-foot, two-story home. Base-priced at $365,990 at Coronado Hills in Las Vegas, the Columbus is comparable to homes of the same square footage and features, Parness says. Its strong suit is its flexibility: “Every family has or will have some sort of makeup that makes this home attractive,” he says, such as parents moving in with their adult children and boomerang kids, “but we’re also seeing lots of other uses for that space, such as a man cave or home gym.”





The lock-off suite includes a kitchenette with a refrigerator, a sink with a garbage disposal, and a convection microwave oven. The suite can also be integrated into the rest of the house, depending on the family’s needs, says Perlman. For instance, it can be an extra bedroom for guests, a bonus room, or a playroom. “It’s a lot more versatile than the old Chicago two-flat,” he says.

Perlman is working with Lennar on new variations of Next Gen. “People in different regions want and need different things. Las Vegas is a little different than Phoenix, and Florida is its own deal. There, you’ve got older people whose children and grandchildren come for extended visits, and they’re looking for bigger lock-offs with two and three bedrooms.” The lock-off can also accommodate a caregiver, which would allow the homeowners to age in place.

So far, at least, the Next Gen concept has been the most successful in parts of the country where slab-on-grade construction is the norm, since homeowners with basements find it more economical to finish that space for extended family, says Perlman. 


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