Accessory Apartments & Multigenerational Living

It’s no surprise to us that the number of multigenerational homes is growing across the country. We’re certainly seeing that trend among our clients.

A 2016 Pew Center analysis of census data found that “in 2014, a record 60.6 million people, or 19% of the U.S. population, lived with multiple generations under one roof.” That figure represents a significant jump from 1980, when just 12% of Americans lived in multigenerational households.

One factor for this rise, reports the Pew Center, is cultural. Asians and Hispanics, who comprise a growing percentage of the U.S. population, are more likely to live with multiple generations of family. Economic benefits also come into play. Younger adults can care for older adults, older adults can help out with child care, and everyone involved can share some of the living/maintenance costs.

However, there are also some tricky things about this type of living arrangement. (We won’t get into the potential tensions of sharing the home with a father- or mother-in-law.)

For that reason, the ideal solution is often to have one house with two distinct living spaces. We’re not talking about an in-law apartment, which might share the same point of egress with the rest of the home, as well as the kitchen and/or dining room. Rather, we’re referring to what’s called an “accessory apartment” — that is, a separate dwelling with its own kitchen, bathroom(s), living room, bedroom(s), etc.

Lexington Is on Board

Many local communities are coming to appreciate the benefits of accessory apartments — and thus lifting restrictions on these dwellings. Towns and cities realize economic advantages because accessory apartments are taxed separately. From a consumer standpoint, accessory apartments address the demand for multigenerational living while also providing more-affordable rental options for college students and younger professionals.

To cite one example from our service area, Lexington Town Meeting last year relaxed “some existing conditions and requirements that limit the ability to construct accessory apartments. These requirements include lot area, presence of rooming units, connection to Town water and sewer, ownership, location of parking, and age of structure.”

Is an accessory apartment right for you? Due to accessibility issues, we generally recommend not converting an attic or basement for this purpose. Rather, a modest addition on the ground level usually is the way to go.

Besides housing a senior parent, an accessory apartment could be used to:

  • Create the living space you need to age in place.
  • Accommodate adult children moving back home after college or job loss.
  • Serve as guest space or a rental apartment.

And increasing your home’s versatility is a great way to enhance its value. Contact Custom Contracting if you’d like to learn more.