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Builder News Blog Post by David Barisic, Vice President of Sales and Marketing

New Market Shift…Multigenerational Housing

David Barisic | December 28th, 2011

In my last blog entry, I discussed a shift towards more precise planning when it comes to both the design of new housing and the subsequent marketing of it.  In this entry, I want to touch more specifically on a particular trend that is beginning to make headlines – multigenerational housing.

To most people who grew up in the American suburbs, the path to domestic independence was pretty clear: graduate high school, move out, don’t look back. The thought of living even semi-permanently with relatives, whether it’s with parents, aunts & uncles, cousins, etc., was not really an option. There is research that has suggested, however, that this way of thinking may be short-lived for a couple of reasons that builders and developers will need to pay close attention to.

First, we all were taught growing up that America is a “melting-pot” of many different ethnicities and cultures.  This seems true even more today as the immigrant populations from around the world tend to be growing and concentrating around American job centers.  This poses both an opportunity and a challenge to home-builders today.  The opportunity is fairly obvious: our buyer pool is expanding.  The challenge is that the buyer pool is altering what we think we know about what buyers want.  For example, many immigrant cultures (who will constitute the bulk of our buyers) don’t have the same stigma attached to living with extended family; it is simply a way of life.  Therefore, our product needs to adjust accordingly to include larger, more flexible living spaces, accessible bedrooms for the elderly, and the addition of more communal rather than private facilities (e.g. bathrooms, offices, etc.).

Second, the struggling economy and its associated pay cuts and higher unemployment rate have made living with relatives a financial necessity, albeit an unappealing one for some of us.  For people finding themselves in this position, we will see a trend toward new housing that may have features like an “apartment” with a separate entrance or even units with two distinct and separate living spaces, but that share a kitchen and utilities.

Regardless of the reasons behind this current shift towards multigenerational housing, it is becoming more apparent that our traditional idea of homeownership may be shifting.  We will need to be able to shift accordingly.

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