We adapt, so multi-gen liv­ing is grow­ing

The Northern Star - - REAL ESTATE - By JOHN MCGRATH

ONE of the best things about Aus­tralian prop­erty buy­ers and renters is their abil­ity to adapt to chang­ing mar­ket con­di­tions.

As we all know, one of the great­est chal­lenges to­day is the abil­ity to af­ford a place to live, and more specif­i­cally a place to live in the area where you ac­tu­ally want to re­side.

Over the past five years alone, we’ve seen some sig­nif­i­cant new trends in the mar­ket­place that have come about purely due to Aus­tralians’ in­ge­nu­ity in deal­ing with this chal­lenge. Among those trends are:

First home buy­ers pur­chas­ing for in­vest­ment in af­ford­able ar­eas, to get a foot in the mar­ket, but choos­ing to rent in their pre­ferred area for life­style in­stead.

Par­ents go­ing guar­an­tor on a loan or pro­vid­ing the de­posit for their child’s first home.

Sib­lings or friends pool­ing funds to get out of the rental cy­cle and pur­chase a prop­erty they can live in to­gether.

Young fam­i­lies leav­ing ex­pen­sive cities like Syd­ney in favour of a bet­ter life­style and greater af­ford­abil­ity of hous­ing in ma­jor re­gional mar­kets.

Fam­i­lies choos­ing apart­ment liv­ing over houses so they can af­ford to buy where they want to live.

An­other of the ris­ing new trends to com­bat af­ford­abil­ity is ex­tended fam­i­lies liv­ing to­gether – or multi-gen­er­a­tional liv­ing. By ex­tended fam­i­lies, I’m talking typ­i­cally about mum, dad and their kids, plus grand­par­ents.

Re­search un­der­taken by UNSW’s City Fu­tures Re­search Cen­tre shows multi-gen liv­ing in Aus­tralia has been steadily in­creas­ing since the 1980s. In 2006, about one in five Aus­tralians (and one in four in Syd­ney) lived in a house­hold with two or more gen­er­a­tions of re­lated adults aged over 18.

You might not be sur­prised to find this is a trend in Syd­ney, where prop­erty prices are more ex­pen­sive than any­where else in the coun­try. But the city that has ex­pe­ri­enced the great­est growth in multi-gen liv­ing is ac­tu­ally the far-more-af­ford­able Bris­bane, where the num­ber of multi-gen homes in­creased by 51.7% be­tween 1981-2006, com­pared to 36.1% in Syd­ney.

This demon­strates that there are other rea­sons for the rise in multi-gen liv­ing. Aside from fi­nan­cial pres­sure, the next most com­mon rea­sons are the need or de­sire to pro­vide care to a fam­ily mem­ber, usu­ally a grand­par­ent – a trend we should ex­pect to see ris­ing due to our ag­ing pop­u­la­tion – and chil­dren stay­ing at home longer be­cause they are de­lay­ing mar­riage and want to avoid pay­ing rent so they can save more for their first home.

Multi-gen liv­ing is also a trend in the US, where 57 mil­lion Amer­i­cans or 18% of the pop­u­la­tion lives in house­holds with two or more gen­er­a­tions. In 1980, it was 28 mil­lion. The trend spiked dur­ing the GFC and has con­tin­ued ris­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­tre.

Be­sides hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity, there are a few other ben­e­fits to multi-gen liv­ing that peo­ple talk about too:

Free child­care from the grand­par­ents, with both mum and dad typ­i­cally work­ing to pay the mort­gage.

Greater shar­ing of house­hold chores, re­duc­ing the amount of house­work done by each fam­ily mem­ber.

Se­cu­rity for the grand­par­ents that some­one will be there to look af­ter them as they age and bat­tle health is­sues.

There’s an­other rea­son we’re see­ing more multi-gen house­holds in Aus­tralia – ris­ing im­mi­gra­tion, par­tic­u­larly from Asia.

In Asia, multi-gen liv­ing is nor­mal. So when they come to Aus­tralia, it’s a cul­ture they bring with them. As more Asian fam­i­lies move here, more multi-gen house­holds will be formed.

The type of hous­ing that multi-gen fam­i­lies tar­get cer­tainly varies depend­ing on their bud­get but also their re­la­tion­ships. For some fam­i­lies, sep­a­ra­tion and the abil­ity to live in­de­pen­dently of each other, while still be­ing in the same prop­erty, is a pri­or­ity.

In these cases, du­plexes with sep­a­rate self-con­tained lev­els or large homes that al­low for some sort of divi­sion of space are sought-af­ter. Prop­er­ties on large blocks of land that al­low for the con­struc­tion of a granny flat out the back are also at­trac­tive to multi-gen buy­ers.

Multi-gens also do their fair share of knock­down/re­builds and ma­jor ex­ten­sions of ex­ist­ing homes to ac­com­mo­date their new liv­ing ar­range­ments.

Most multi-gen house­holds can be found in our cities’ mid­dle and outer rings, most likely re­flec­tive of fi­nan­cial pres­sures among lower- to mid­dle-in­come fam­i­lies and greater avail­abil­ity of larger homes in these ar­eas.

If you’re think­ing of multi-gen liv­ing, my ad­vice is be hon­est with your­self about how you want to live be­fore propos­ing the idea.

Con­sider where you want to live, how much space or sep­a­ra­tion you would need for your­self and how costs such as mort­gage, elec­tric­ity, wa­ter and gro­ceries would be split.


FAM­ILY AF­FAIR: Multi-gen­er­a­tional pur­chases can be a gift for the en­tire fam­ily, all year round.

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