Too many grown-ups fighting for the space at home
“Chadults” and grandparents are putting increasing pressure on the traditional family home. So is it time for a redesign? Sharon Dale reports.
“TOUGH” was David Cameron’s response to anger aroused by his plan to scrap housing benefit for the under 25s if the Conservative Party win the next election.
There’s no doubt it will be for parents forced to provide a home for their grown-up children, though an increasing number are already experiencing this kind of over-crowding.
Boomerang kids asking for their old bedrooms back or failing to vacate them is far more common now thanks to unemployment and the need to save for a large deposit before they can get a mortgage.
A survey by insurance firm LV this week revealed that 1.6 million grown-up children over the age of 21 live with their parents. A third of them cite not being able to access the property ladder as the reason for staying with mum and dad, while one in five can’t find a job, 12 per cent are there due to the break-up of a relationship and one in ten have free bed and board while they try and pay off debts. Almost half of parents surveyed said they had been forced to raid their savings and 10 per cent had spent their nest egg supporting their “chadults”.
Mark Jones, LV Head of Protection, says: “Bringing up a child is expensive and the cost doesn’t stop there. Young people are leaving university with large debts, youth unemployment is at a record high and property is unaffordable for many. So it is likely we will see a growing number of adults who continue to depend on their parents.”
But the pressure isn’t just financial. Living together can cause arguments, stress and resentment, especially when children move back home after living away.
The solution to this problem for some is to buy a home with a self-contained annexe, though these are rare and much more expensive than the average house.
Architect Ric Blenkharn, of Bramhall Blenkharn, suggests maximising space in existing properties and designing creative solutions into new builds.
“One solution is to maximise the space in an existing house, so converting the loft. I also think we need to get creative with space and flexible furniture like desks and bookcases that fold down and double as beds.
“I’ve used pieces from www. clei.it on a few projects and they make it easy for living spaces to become sleeping spaces. The same approach could be taken with sliding screens.”
He also stresses that new homes need to be bigger.
“With many modern homes designed to the smallest size feasible, then flexibility is a real problem. It’s why the good old semi-detached house has appeal for many. They often have significant potential for loft conversions and side/rear extensions. New developments usually have restricted plot widths, which make change impossible.”
Ian Ruthven, MD of Barratt Yorkshire, says three-storey town houses are most useful when it comes to multi-generational living.
Many were built during the recent property boom when the government demanded high density, though most developers are now concentrating on creating detached houses.
“The three storey town houses offer flexibility to have a self-contained suite but at the moment the mass market is demanding detached homes and so that is what we are concentrating on,” says Ian.
“I think there is a case for building self-contained elements or annexes into a new house to accommodate grown-up children or elderly relatives but it would be a niche area and one a smaller developer could better exploit.
“For us it probably wouldn’t stack up financially because of the extra space you would need and to be honest I don’t think there will ever be a big market for them.
“I don’t think we’ll ever embrace multi-generational living in the way they do in Spain and Italy, where they have a very integrated family life in the same house. We’re too insular and we value our own space too much.”
Kevin Hollinrake, MD of Hunters, offers some hope and says that the pressure on parents will ease when first time buyer mortgages become easier to obtain.
“There is no doubt that we are seeing children staying at home for longer than they did in the past but I think there is a very simple solution and that is for the banks turn the tap back on. Property prices aren’t the problem here in Yorkshire. It’s the deposits, which seem to be getting higher and higher. When that changes young people will have a chance of moving out into their own homes.”
Ric Blenkharn, meanwhile, believes that renting could offer flexibility for everyone.
“There still seems to be a stigma about the social and private rented sector here that does not affect other European countries. I think the only remedy to this is to destroy the myth about home ownership.
“When we own a home financial strangleholds prevent movement so we have to adapt our environments to suit. Renting offers flexibility to choose accommodation appropriate to your situation.”
HIGH SOCIETY: Beamsley Hall is in an idyllic spot with magnificent views of Ilkley Moor. Inside, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire have created a fabulouis family home and outside the Duke’s passion for gardens is evident.
HIGH LIFE: Loft conversions, like this from Econoloft, can offer selfcontained space for “chadults”.