Not your mother’s in-law suite

Builders find new ways to meet rising demand for multigenerational housing

By: Graziella Steele//October 31, 2013//

Not your mother’s in-law suite

Builders find new ways to meet rising demand for multigenerational housing

By: Graziella Steele//October 31, 2013//

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multigen photo
Ron Harmon, shown with his family, from left to right, daughter Allison, Wife Lorel, daughter Krystal and mother-in-law Muriel Wolfe, has bought a new multigenerational home in Waxhaw, where he will soon be retiring. Photo courtesy of Ron Harmon

CHARLOTTE – Ron Harmon was looking for something special in his next home, the ability to accommodate his elderly mother-in-law and his autistic daughter independently yet safely under one roof.

The 64-year-old director of purchasing for the city of Bradenton, Fla., found his perfect home in Lennar’s Harmony model in Lawson at Deer Meadow in Waxhaw.

“I was familiar with the concept of living with family since I had built a home 11 years ago with separate living quarters for my mom and dad,” said Harmon. “We looked at 28 to 30 homes and the Next Gen was perfect.”

Harmon is referring to Lennar’s Next Gen concept homes; the company labels them “The home within a home,” designed for the growing number of multigenerational households in America.

Lennar is offering four model homes – the Grace, the Harmony, the Serenity and the Tranquility – at three developments in the Charlotte metro area – Lawson, Brookedale Commons in Harrisburg and Carolina Reserve in Lancaster, S.C. – to meet the needs of families that are looking to house their extended families under one roof.  The homes range in size from 3,101 to 4,058 square feet and pricing starts in the mid-$200,000s.

Jon Hardy, Lennar’s division president for the Charlotte area, said that since July he’s sold seven Next Gen homes and he expects to sell many more as the company plans to start aggressively marketing the concept here and expand their offerings to six local communities.

“As people find out about these properties, they get really excited,” said Hardy.


Culture, economics drive trend

Harmon said he and his wife were concerned about the well-being of his 82-year-old mother-in-law, who is having trouble living on her own. The cost of assisted living, at $3,000 to $4,000 a month, was prohibitive for them, so the new home presented a perfect solution.

“Her apartment opens into the main house, but she has her own living quarters and privacy.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 4.3 million homes, or 5.6 percent of all family households, live in multigenerational homes with grandparents, their children and their grandchildren under the same roof.

Stephen Melhman, director of economic services at the National Association of Realtors, said the move is driven by a number of factors including the impact of the recession as well as cultural preferences.

“There have been some recent increases driven by the economy, on the one hand, to move people out of poverty and combine resources,” said Melhman. “On the other hand, immigrants with the economic firepower to do so are purchasing larger homes meeting the demands of more than one generation, which would be typical in their living arrangements. So that may be where it will really increase in the future.”

The census data found that multigenerational households are more common in areas where immigrants live with relatives and in areas where housing costs are so high that families are doubling up. Among all households, 4.9 percent were multigenerational in North Carolina, according to the census bureau.

A Pew Research study from 2012 found that 41 percent of young adults between 25 and 29 are now living or have lived with their parents. More than 50 million Americans are in multigenerational households.  With 15 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds not in school or working, according to a study released Oct. 21 by the nonprofit Opportunity Nation coalition, the trend to multigenerational living is unlikely to change, out of necessity.

Hardy said that most of the interest he’s seen in Charlotte for the Next Gen has been with families wanting to take care of elderly parents or special needs children.  But, he added, the idea is also very appealing to immigrants from countries like India, Asia and Latin America where it’s very common to live with an extended family.

Builders’ plans have flexibility

The Miami-based homebuilder launched the Next Gen concept in Phoenix area in October 2011.

“It was launched in that market because our West Region President Jeff Roos and our Arizona Division President Alan Jones felt very strongly that providing homes for multigenerational families was a growing need that was not being met by the new home industry,” said Kay Howard, director of communications.

Multigen 1
Lennar’s multigenerational home is designed to blend in with the typical single-family homes surrounding it. Photo by Nell Redmond

It’s not a rehashed version of the old mother-in-law suite, but not a full duplex either. The home looks like a typical single family home from the street, but it offers “everything that would make a main home sufficient,” said Hardy, plus two separate external entrances, a joined internal entrance, and a separate suite of rooms with a full kitchenette with appliances and a convection microwave, a living area, a three-quarters bath, a stacked washer and dryer and a bedroom with a walk-in closet.

Multigen 4
Lennar’s Jon Hardy enters the separate suite built within the company’s NExt Gen model, which offers outside access to both living quarters, which are connected inside by a common door. Photo by Nell Redmond

Jon Cherry, Charlotte’s division president at Pulte Group, said his company currently is testing the consumer appetite for multigenerational housing units.  He thinks that the company will be offering models with separate suites within the next 12 months because there is a demand for it.

Jay Thrower, division president for Ryland in Charlotte, says there is absolutely a growing demand for separate living spaces for parents. “It’s a continuously growing segment of our business,” said Thrower.

While the company does not offer a model with a house-within-a-house concept, Thrower said Ryland plans are flexible and offer dual masters providing living areas on first and second floors.

Likewise, Tamara Lynch, M/I Homes Charlotte’s marketing sales vice president, said this segment is not presently a significant part of their business. However, families seeking separate quarters for parents could find plenty of flexibility in their plans. She added that in 10 years, there would be much more demand for multigenerational homes.

“From a lifestyle perspective, families are more inclined to live with their parents, or have kids back from college living with them. In some cultures, you find the daughter with the grandchild living at the home,” said Lynch.

There has been no opposition to the concept of multigenerational living as regards zoning. In fact, in July 2012, the city of Charlotte changed its zoning ordinance to allow for accessory dwelling units in both new and existing neighborhoods throughout the city.  The goal was to provide greater flexibility and variety of housing options for multigenerational households.

Additionally, Hardy said, the homes-within-a-home met all the community covenants where they have been built.

Harmon is looking forward to his upcoming retirement, when he can relocate his family permanently to his new home and enjoy the man cave in the loft.



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