Nearly 7% of UK households are multigenerational, the equivalent of 1.8 million households, and yet in the UK this concept is not well-understood and there has been little development of new home designs to suit the needs of families that would like to live in a multigenerational household.
Households are defined as multigenerational where there are three or more generations of the same family living together, or two generations of the same family living together, consisting of parents and one or more adult children (over the age of 25), or two generations of the same family living together consisting of one or more adult children (typically middle aged) and their elderly parent(s)
New research by The NHBC Foundation identifies a growing trend towards multigenerational living. Their report, Multigenerational Living, An Opportunity for House Builders?, analyses the scale and types of multigenerational households currently found in the UK and explores the experiences of British families living in this way.
Multigenerational living was also discussed with a range of house builders to understand their perspective on this market, in terms of their perception of both opportunity and risk.
The research provides evidence that challenges some myths about multigenerational living in the UK and suggests that it is not just ethnic minority families who choose to live in multigenerational households, it is not just a response to care needs or housing affordability problems and it is not just about living in properties with annexes.
- The number of multigenerational households in the UK has been increasing, driven by greater numbers of adult children (aged 25 or over) living in the parental home.
- Four out of five multigenerational households in the UK are White British, although some ethnic groups (predominantly Asian families) are more likely than White British people to live in multigenerational households.
- Multigenerational households tend not to be large and typically much smaller than often portrayed. Approximately one-quarter of households with grandparent(s) present contain three people, just over 20% contain four people and a similar proportion contain five people. Two-adult-generation households are generally smaller and are most likely to comprise just three people. Average-sized homes with little or no modification may therefore provide satisfactory accommodation for many multigenerational households
- Multigenerational households are most likely to live in three- or four-bedroom homes that they own, and the households, in general, are not living in poverty.
- Multigenerational households predominantly live in ‘standard’ properties, and not all have annexes or extensions to accommodate household members separately
Requirements for Multigenerational Living
The research showed that, in terms of the design and use of space in the home, privacy is important but so is the ability to flexibly use any ‘additional’ space. The best model included some shared spaces, open-plan dining and
an element of private space. For example, there needs to be space for interaction, such as family meals, but some privacy, such as separate rooms to entertain guests or watch television.
A limited number of bathrooms can cause tensions if everyone needs to be ready at the same time of day, so en-suites or multiple bathrooms were welcomed.
The flexibility to adapt properties over time to suit different family arrangements was welcomed. Such future-proofing might, for example, enable easy adaptation of a downstairs room (with access to a WC) into a bedroom.
Adaping New-Build House Designs for Multigenerational Households
A design review by The NHBC Foundation identified various existing common new-build house designs that are suitable for multigenerational households, or which could easily be adapted to be so.
- Suitable without change
These are typically designs in which one or two bedrooms and a bathroom form a relatively separate suite of rooms on its own floor (typically the top floor of a three-storey house). These house types offer the possibility of immediate use of this suite of rooms, either by an elderly relative or by adult children, without any alteration or conversion of the existing plan.
- Adjustment of existing plan layout
The second type of newbuild design identified by the review comprises houses in which the original plan offers a particularly large double bedroom, usually with an ensuite bathroom, often located above a double garage or a ground floor wing. In these cases the layout can often be changed to provide a self-contained space with a living room, double bedroom and ensuite bathroom, plus the option of a kitchenette.
- Opportunity to extend
These are houses which offer the opportunity to provide a separate self-contained extension to the original house. Such homes might be marketed either with planning consent and designed to comply with Building Regulations, leaving the purchaser to engage a contactor to carry out the work, or as an ‘off plan’ option in which the house builder would complete the extension as part of the main work.
- Ground-floor alteration
Where the existing ground-floor plan has a large bedroom or family room, this may be suitable for conversion into a self-contained living area with its own entrance.
Source: The NHBC Foundation “Multigenerational Living, An Opportunity for UK house builders” Report