Multi-generational housing is on the increase; 1.8 million households now span two or more adult generations, up 38% since 2009. There are many factors driving this increase, including providing support for older family members, a lack of retirement homes, help with childcare and increasing housing costs. However, the recent rise in multi-generational homes has been primarily driven by millennials living with parents. And with increasing house prices and worsening affordability, this is likely to continue. Yet, an ageing population will have an increasing impact; currently there are around 11.8 million people over 65 in the UK and forecasts suggests this will rise to 18.5 million by 2040.
Multi-generational housing in the UK currently tends to cater for different generations of the same family. As a result, the homes are typically single-unit dwellings, on average containing three people with three bedrooms. Often an incumbent property is redesigned to adapt to multi-generational use; around 125,000 homes are being converted per year for this purpose. Given this typology, such homes will be more prevalent in family suburbs rather than city centres.
However, there is a much wider opportunity for more innovative forms of inter-generational homes. This is especially the case in our cities with higher property prices and where the share of over 65s is rising; in Leeds and Liverpool, the share of pensioners is expected to rise from 15% to 19% by 2040.
For example, Homeshare is an initiative that brings together two unrelated people, generally including an older householder who needs a small amount of help to live independently. There are currently 22 Homeshare schemes operating across the UK, with six in the Liverpool area and three in Leeds.
More innovative models exist internationally, particularly in the mature US market, and include co-housing schemes and younger generations living in specialist accommodation designed for older people. Co-housing schemes began in Denmark in the early 1970s and are communities created and run by their residents. Each household has a self-contained private home with shared community space. Residents regularly come together to manage their community, share activities and eat. Quite often they cater for communities of common interest and are an ideal model for inter-generational communities. One such example is EcoVillage at Ithaca, in New York State. There are over 20 built co-housing communities in the UK; including an age-specific co-housing project in Barnet in London solely for women over 50.
A nursing home in Holland has come up with an equally innovative solution where students live alongside elderly residents. The accommodation is free, but they spend 30 hours a month socialising with other residents. There are similar examples in Canada and the US. Given high tuition fees this could be explored as an option in our university cities, where, as we write elsewhere, the costs of living away from the parental home seems to be one force keeping students and graduates in their home cities.
These innovative multi-generational housing models evolve rapidly, so it’s not possible to predict what form they may take by 2040, but what is certain is that we will have more inter-generational housing in our cities.
Figure 1: Estimated number of multi-generational homes, 2009-2014 (% and millions of households)
Figures from CCHPR show that the percentage of multi-generational households grew from 5% in 2009-2010 to 6.8% in 2013-2014. This may not seem like much, by extrapolating this trend to 2040 would imply a figure around 17%, or 1 in 6 households. That would be a remarkable, but not implausible, change.