Multigenerational Households

BUSINESS • CULTURE 09.02.18

Congress comes together to help grandfamilies as record 64 million Americans live in multigenerational homes.

This summer, the Supporting Grandparents Raising Children Act was signed into law to help grandparents and other relatives raising children, says ForbesGenerations United's report, State of Grandfamilies in America, Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic was noted a "key inspiration."

One-in-five Americans lived in multigenerational family households in 2016, according to The Pew Research Center's latest findings. Between 2000 and 2016 alone the percentage of households made up of grandparents and grandchildren under 25, or at least two generations living together under one roof, jumped from 15 to 20 percent.

Older Americans squeezed as they help children, grandchildren and aging parents.

"Older Americans are being strained by the needs of those around them."  A study using data from the the Consumer Bankruptcy Project found that a little over one-third of filers said that "helping others, like children or older parents, had contributed to their seeking bankruptcy protection."  Bankruptcy rates among those between 65 and 74 tripled between 2013 and 2016. In 1991, the rate was 1.2, reports The New York Times.

Going back to 2013, The Pew Research Center examined data from 2005 to 2012 and wrote about rising financial burdens mounting for "the sandwich generation," middle-aged Americans caring for aging parents, raising young children, or financially supporting grown children. Noting "the increased pressure is coming primarily from grown children rather than aging parents."

Aging in place and demographics are contributing factors.

Contributing to the multigenerational shift are baby boomers who are working longer and choosing to live at home as they age. And, although the trend is growing "among nearly all U.S. racial groups," Asian and Hispanic populations are growing faster than the white population, "and those groups are more likely than whites to live in multigenerational family households."

Projections say trend is growing, builders focus on designing homes to accommodate multiple generations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac target demographic.

Demographic projections point to "substantial growth in multigenerational households in the coming years," says Shannon Rieger, Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The nuclear family is "mostly a mid-twentieth century development, and one that is declining," says sociologist, Karen Sternheimer.

By 2035, one in three households are projected to be headed by adults aged 65 and older, according to The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Aging in place is an essential housing consideration for baby boomers and  many are  adapting their homes as they age, reports The Washington Post.

Lending and Building have taken notice, say Curbed.com and Homes.comFannie Mae's HomeReady loan program takes into account income from other household members in the qualification process.

Builders, designers and contractors believe the trend will continue. Many are focusing on designing homes with additional living spaces, more privacy, and easy-access for "aging in place," reports the Washington Post.

Freddie Mac says the "borrower of the future is evolving" and is "tailoring" products for multigenerational households.

Smart technology and multigenerational homes said to be driving societal change.

Builder.com reported in June that smart technology and multigenerational homes are "driving societal change."  Increasingly attainable and affordable smart technology that can "handle myriad tasks from filling a bathtub to programming a thermostat" is advancing it.

The 2018 International Builders Show in Orlando highlighted the shift. Show organizers told The Washington Post, "the four-person family with Mom, Dad and two kids now represents less than 20 percent of the home-buying public."

Crunch in supply for starter homes. High-end homes justify building costs. Looming Trump tariffs triggering increased demand and rising cost of construction materials.

Single-family home construction is at it "lowest rate in four decades," due to land availability, zoning and the cost of lumber, but labor shortage is one of the "biggest problems," reports NPR.

The "real crunch in supply" is for affordable, smaller, starter homes. Nationwide, builders are "focusing much more of their efforts on high-end construction." One builder told NPR "it justifies the cost of the lot."

"Considering the mere impact the threat of new tariffs have had in the cost of material prices and demand, prices are likely to increase further as the new trade restrictions come online...making construction more costly and slower," said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of The Association of General Contractors of America.

The cost of all goods used in construction rose 8.8 percent from May 2017 to May 2018, the steepest increase in seven years," according to AGC.

The share of homes under 1,800 square feet fell from 50 percent in 1988 to 22 percent in 2017, and "9 percentage points occurred in 2010-2013 alone," according to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing's State of the Nation's Housing 2018 report.

Elaine Sarduy is a freelance writer and content developer @Listing Debuts