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

Affordable housing unites generations

Adjacent to a light rail line and within walking distance of shopping, dining, and other amenities, Courier Place is also affordable and multi-generational. The buildings pay homage to Claremont, Calif.’s traditional architecture but have a modern twist with their vibrant color palette; stucco and board-and-batten siding; and metal canopies.


So far, most of the new housing designed for multi-generational living has been single-family and priced out of the range of low- and moderate-income buyers. But builders and developers are beginning to explore more affordable multi-family options.

Courier Place in Claremont, Calif., is one of the first communities in the Los Angeles area to offer affordable multi-generational housing, says Corde Carrillo, director of the Economic/Redevelopment Division of the Community Development Commission of Los Angeles County. “It pretty much hits the mark on the trends that are in the forefront of affordable housing right now,” says Carrillo. “It’s transit-oriented, walkable, and sustainable.”

Project funding came from multiple sources, including Carrillo’s agency; the city of Claremont; equity investor WNC & Associates; and U.S. Bank. The nonprofit developer, Jamboree Housing Corp. of Irvine, Calif., purchased the land, coordinated the architectural and engineering plans, and managed construction, marketing, and leasing.


Family apartments at Courier Place were designed with larger-than-usual living rooms and walk-in closets. The units have a separate dining room, as well as a breakfast bar in the kitchen.


“The site was perfect for workforce housing because of its access to the train station, which enables folks to commute to Los Angeles very easily,” says Jamboree president Laura Archuleta. “But as we got deeper into planning meetings, we saw there was also a need for affordable senior housing.”

Brian Desatnik, Claremont’s director of community development, adds, “Our population has been getting older, and many seniors want to stay in Claremont but downsize into a place that doesn’t require as much care.” By the same token, housing prices tend to be higher in Claremont than in surrounding communities, shutting out lower-wage workers and their families.

Despite some initial reservations about the willingness of seniors to live close to families with children, Courier Place quickly achieved 100 percent occupancy. Residents earn between 30 and 50 percent of the area median income. Built on the former location of the Claremont Courier newspaper, the project is a quarter of a mile from downtown Claremont Village and close to shopping, schools, parks, and entertainment. Several residents have jobs in Claremont and can walk to work.


Seniors and families share the computer room in the Courier Place community center (bottom right). Children can take advantage of an after-school program that enhances computer literacy, while seniors can brush up on their own computer skills.


Courier Place is somewhat like single-family multi-generational homes in that there are opportunities for old and young alike to mingle or enjoy private time. Seniors live in a separate elevator building where they have their own roof deck and two-story recreation space. They can interact with families in the shared community center, tot lot, swimming pool, and patio dining areas. The 3,000-square-foot community center includes a multipurpose room, a kitchen, and a computer lab.

The three-story, garden-style apartments were designed by William Hezmalhalch Architects of Santa Ana, Calif., and range from 607 to 1,172 square feet. There are a total of 75 units, including one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors and two- and three-bedroom apartments for families.

Jeff Chelwick, senior principal with William Hezmalhalch Architects, collaborated with Jamboree and the city during the design process, letting the site and context shape the architecture. “Our goals were to create traditional character but still be fresh and lively with some contemporary feel,” says Chelwick.

Because the railroad tracks are directly to the north, he placed one side of the family apartments adjacent to the tracks and eliminated windows on that side. He also single-loaded one side of the senior building so there were no units facing the tracks. These “zero walls” are articulated with tower elements and popouts, and soundproofed for noise attenuation.

To the south is a residential single-family neighborhood. Here, Chelwick stepped the massing down to two stories to soften the transition to the single-family homes. Light wells in the staircases brighten the middle of the buildings. The efficiency of the design allowed him to place windows in the rear kitchen/living/dining areas for cross ventilation, as well as more natural light.

Archuleta stresses that Jamboree’s Resident Services Group is essential to the community’s success. The on-site group organizes such activities as shared field trips to local museums and cultural attractions and mentoring programs for seniors and young people. The programs are designed to foster learning, healthy living, and community building. All services are offered at no cost to residents.

Courier Place is also on track for LEED Platinum certification. The property exceeds California’s Title 24 energy-efficiency standards by more than 35 percent, and solar photovoltaic panels provide 17 percent of the electricity in the common areas.

A mix that makes sense

When Howard Perlman conceived the Next Gen homes, he believed that not only would they sell, they made sense for the way people live today. “A builder’s model complex should include a great multi-generational home,” says Perlman. “It matches the demographics.”

“It’s just one plan that’s part of your mix,” agrees Lennar’s Parness. “You still have a complement of other products that will hopefully meet the needs of buyers if the multi-generational home doesn’t. But I haven’t encountered buyers that didn’t like the idea of having a little bit of privacy for an additional family member. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”


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