Better together?

Trends in family living are changing

By Herb Lagois

No surprise, these days: one of the trends we are experiencing is multigenerational living. Whether a coach house (detached dwelling on same property), additions or simply altering existing spaces, families are deciding to live together. It’s something that has been around for centuries, but it seems fairly “new” for North America.

COVID has certainly sped up the demand as affordability becomes more challenged and there is the fear of not being able to see loved ones in retirement homes. Added to this is the need for home offices as many of us now work from home.

This concept was on the rise anyway, prior to COVID. Many members of the baby boomer generation have wanted to be closer to family, especially after experiencing life-altering events such as retirement, health concerns, and losing a partner. We in the industry have been involved helping homeowners to make this shift, now more than ever.

If you think multigenerational living is an option for you, there are some things to consider:

Can we live together? Good friends of ours moved in with her daughter’s family. Two years later, even though they had their independent space, they moved out to be on their own. Uncomfortable yet realistic conversations are necessary before you begin.

Privacy: Most of our homeowners are clear about whether kitchen spaces are shared or not; yet what about outdoor living, entertaining one’s friends, separate entrances, noise?

Future: What is your long-term goal? When you have an aging family member, what happens to the space afterwards? Will your home be too large later? Keep flexibility in mind during the design process.

Compliance to local bylaws: Can this be done within setback restrictions? Is a detached structure allowed? Are multiple dwelling units allowed? What about building code compliance like fire ratings and energy performance?

Other Authorities: Conservation Authorities have specific requirements (like distances to rivers/lakes/wetlands). Rural properties have septic requirements (size and clearances to structures).

Impact to existing home: Are existing electrical/mechanical systems adequate? Are different climate zones required? Are there allergies/light sensitivity/health concerns? Does your home contain designated substances like asbestos? Is one-level living critical? What else do you or your home need short term and long term?

Holistic understanding: Is your Architect/Designer/RenoMark® Remodeler asking appropriate questions, truly understanding your needs? Are they answering your questions? Are all appropriate family members part of the process?

Your answers will go a long way to help decide whether multigenerational living makes sense or not.

No surprise.

Herb Lagois is the Founder of Lagois Design-Build-Renovate.

Read More