Economy drives families together under one roof

Fri Mar 19, 2010 11:34am EDT
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By Lynn Adler and Helen Chernikoff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The recession slowed most homebuilding in the United States to a standstill but it has fueled demand for a special kind of housing: the granny flat.

As unemployment hovers around 10 percent and healthcare costs spiral upward, homebuyers like Stephanie Charbeneau want to cut costs by sharing shelter with her extended family.

Charbeneau, a 27-year-old court recording monitor in New Haven, Connecticut, is buying a home with her husband, their two young children and her in-laws because money is tight.

"Everything is so expensive, you need your family to help you out. Thank God that they're there to help you," she said.

The Charbeneaus and Stephanie's in-laws plan to split the mortgage on a $337,000 two-family home with an apartment her brother-in-law may rent. It is a bigger and newer house than the couple could afford on their own.

They are not alone. Almost 70 percent of Coldwell Banker Real Estate agents see economic concerns compelling more families to seek housing together in 2010, according to a January poll.

At least in the short term, multi-generational housing demand is a boon for homebuilders, architects and developers mired in the deepest housing slump since the Great Depression.

The recession is accelerating a long-standing trend. U.S. multi-generational households jumped 24 percent from 2000 to 6.2 million in 2008, or 5.3 percent of all households, according to AARP, the nonprofit organization for people 50 and over. Economics and culture were the main motivators.   Continued...