By Luna Yang
Multigenerational housing is the practice of living with more than one generation under the same roof. According to the 2016 Canada Census, there has been a significant rise in multi-generational housing in the past decade, with nearly 2.2 million Canadians in private households choosing to live multi-generationally. This number is even higher in large urban centers, such as Toronto and Vancouver. American data mirrors this trend; as of 2016, the Pew Research Centre reported that 1/5 Americans lived in a multigenerational household. So, what led to the rise of this unorthodox form of housing, and what are the implications?
https://www.fastcompany.com/90342219/the-future-of-housing-looks-nothing-like-todays Lisa Cini, an architect whose book, ‘Hive’, explores the role of design in creating effective living situations
On the surface, the decision to live multi-generationally seems counter-intuitive to the North American understanding of independence. Much of our collective imagination around family and independence revolves around the system of the ‘nuclear family’, a term popularized in the 1950s. In a nuclear family, a married, heterosexual couple live with their (two or three) biological children. In this paradigm, children are expected to move out at 18 and achieve financial independence before beginning their own nuclear families. Typically, there was a sense of pride associated with independence, even if that came at a steep cost of trying to make rent or a mortgage alone. Accordingly, there was a sense of shame or adolescence in living with parents. In 2019, the social landscape of the family has shifted dramatically. In particular, we are collectively recognizing the diversity of family, whether that’s a one parent family, a same-sex couple family, a blended family, and more. With this social shift also comes major financial changes – housing costs are rising without wage increases to back them up, and after the 2007 global financial crisis, many were left jobless. As a result, multigenerational housing grew.
The housing market is responding promptly to the change https://thebossmagazine.com/multigenerational-housing/
There are many clear benefits to this sort of housing arrangement. First, for a country like Canada with a significant aging population, elder care can be a major concern. Being able to live with elderly parents can ensure their safety and care without excessive cost. Similarly, for those with young children, having grandparents there to care for them saves time and significant resources, and also allows for the generations to bond in a way that they might not be able to otherwise. Of course, young people benefit too – for millennials or Gen Z in an unforgiving housing market, living at home is at times the only viable option.
In addition to the financial factor, socially, multi-generational housing is not new. In many cultures, multigenerational housing is the norm. This allows for a closer knit family and support system. For the elderly, they were able to receive support and companionship. For the young, they receive care and training in their family traditions, customs and practices. Socially, multi-generational housing ties together generations that may not otherwise interact and in the process, offers individuals a sense of belonging through enculturation. Similarly, many immigrants carry these customs with them to Canada.
So, what does this rise in multi-generational housing, with its many implications, mean for Canadians unaccustomed to this practice? First and foremost, it forces us to reconsider the existing notion of success. In a culture that promotes independence as a reflection of success, individuals who are unable to meet these goals must re-examine where they come from, and most importantly, whether these goals are compatible with our current financial realities. For millennials, this is especially prevalent as financial independence can seem further and further away. Secondly, we should question the policies in place that keep housing costs high and availability scarce. If individuals wish to live multi-generationally, they should feel free to. However, to have to share living space with several other generations should not be a requirement to living in Canada. And thirdly, the rise in multi-generational housing is really indicative of many social changes, such as the rise in housing costs; the financial burden of independence; unlivable wages; immigration; the rising cost of childcare; an aging population, and more. Ultimately, our collective response to these changes is telling of the never-ending human capacity to adapt and improvise.