National Post (Latest Edition)




When new­ly­weds search for their first home, it’s rarely with their par­ents. The tra­di­tional tra­jec­tory is get mar­ried and move out. But for 27-yearold Mel Si­mon, she moved out, got mar­ried, then bought a house they could all move into to­gether.

The Toronto res­i­dent and her hus­band spent much of 2020 search­ing for a home in the city’s east end, but the prices were pro­hib­i­tive. Tiny semis within their price range were sell­ing well over ask­ing. Even though the cou­ple both have de­cent jobs in tech, they don’t have a mil­lion dol­lars for a home.

Si­mon and her fam­ily came up with the most prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion: they’ll all live un­der the same roof. Her par­ents said they could help con­trib­ute to a more siz­able down pay­ment in a multi­gen­er­a­tional home since they would be liv­ing there, too. They found a house in Moore Park that was al­ready di­vided into two units; Si­mon’s par­ents live on the main floor and Si­mon and her hus­band oc­cupy the sec­ond and third. The fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit was the driv­ing fac­tor be­hind the de­ci­sion, but be­ing close to Si­mon’s par­ents was an­other.

“We have seen things hap­pen in our friends’ fam­i­lies where an older rel­a­tive will end up get­ting sick, and some­one will have to move in with that rel­a­tive who may live fur­ther away, and it’ll be some­thing that causes ten­sion in a re­la­tion­ship,” Si­mon said.

“If some­thing hap­pens to one of my par­ents, or some­thing hap­pens to one of my part­ner’s par­ents, we want to be able to have them all un­der one roof. Our fam­i­lies are su­per im­por­tant to us.”

More Cana­di­ans like Si­mon have been grav­i­tat­ing to­wards fam­ily-friendly liv­ing ar­range­ments in re­cent years. Based on the lat­est avail­able data, multi­gen­er­a­tional house­holds — de­fined by Sta­tis­tics Canada as three or more gen­er­a­tions liv­ing un­der the same roof — were the fastest-grow­ing house­hold type in the coun­try be­tween 2001 and 2016.



Multi­gen­er­a­tional homes are most com­mon among new Cana­dian and In­dige­nous fam­i­lies, data shows.

For many, the global pan­demic has high­lighted both the im­por­tance of be­ing close to fam­ily and the sys­temic is­sues in long-term care homes. Throw in the climb­ing cost of Toronto hous­ing, and a multi­gen­er­a­tional home is a prac­ti­cal and pru­dent op­tion. The av­er­age price for a home in Toronto rose to $918,883 in 2020, up from $819,832 in 2019, ac­cord­ing to RE/MAX data.

Di­vid­ing up a de­tached or semi-de­tached house is one op­tion; but so is adding an­other build­ing to a plot they own. Since the City of Toronto ap­proved laneway-home by­laws in 2018, some Toron­to­ni­ans are look­ing to their back­yards for a multi­gen­er­a­tional hous­ing so­lu­tion, said Tony Cunha, an ar­chi­tect and project man­ager at the laneway home firm Lanescape. Laneway homes are al­ready pop­u­lar in cities like Van­cou­ver, which adopted reg­u­la­tions in 2009, as al­ter­na­tives to base­ment suites, since the cost of hous­ing there, too, locks a lot of res­i­dents out of home own­er­ship.

Cunha es­ti­mates a good chunk of Lanescape’s cus­tom builds are for fam­ily mem­bers, while the other half are built as rental units to gen­er­ate ad­di­tional in­come. The laneway units cost any­where be­tween $350,000 to $500,000, Cunha said, with projects rang­ing from 500 to 2,500 square feet.

“Close to half of our projects now are geared to­ward ei­ther re­tired par­ents that are build­ing for their adult chil­dren — be­cause oth­er­wise they just sim­ply can’t ac­cess the mar­ket — or be­cause home­own­ers are down­siz­ing,” Cunha said, ex­plain­ing that some re­tirees want to spend most of the year at a cot­tage, but still keep a place in the city. ” are elect­ing to move into the laneway home that’s cus­tom tai­lored to their needs, and then hand­ing down the main house to the chil­dren.”

Leith Moore, the founder and de­vel­oper at R-hauz, a Toronto firm that builds pre­fab­ri­cated laneway homes as well as town­homes, said laneway suites are more ac­ces­si­ble — and bright — op­tions than base­ment apart­ments and also of­fer res­i­dents pri­vacy. Moore said R-hauz’s laneway homes cost around $320 to $325 per square foot, mak­ing them much more af­ford­able than con­dos that re­quire condo fees.

He be­lieves more Toronto res­i­dents will adopt laneway so­lu­tions as they gain pop­u­lar­ity and see how de­signs can be multi-func­tional; R-hauz’s pre­fab­ri­cated homes can be used as rental units, home of­fice spa­ces, apart­ments for fam­ily mem­bers, and partly as garages.

“We keep build­ing houses as if they’re a com­mod­ity, so then when your needs change, you sell that com­mod­ity and buy an­other com­mod­ity,” Moore said.

“COVID has been a good wake-up call in a lot of ways be­cause, if you think about it, why wouldn’t our hous­ing be able to evolve with us and change with us, rather than us hav­ing to change our lo­ca­tion as our life­cy­cle moves?”

Be­com­ing a par­ent her­self is some­thing Si­mon con­sid­ered when buy­ing a home with her par­ents. The cost of child­care in Toronto is some of the high­est in the coun­try, and hav­ing grand­par­ents around would help a lot, she said. Si­mon isn’t alone in her think­ing. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Vanier In­sti­tute of the Fam­ily, the se­nior mem­bers of a multi­gen­er­a­tional home of­ten of­fer sup­port in the form of car­ing for grand­chil­dren.

Toronto-based RE/MAX real es­tate agent Sa­man­tha Shep­pard says that while she hasn’t had clients come to her specif­i­cally for multi­gen­er­a­tional prop­er­ties dur­ing the pan­demic, COVID-19 has caused more first-time home­buy­ers to look for larger spa­ces across the GTA or out­side of it. Work­ing from home and spend­ing time in­doors is part of that push, but she also be­lieves peo­ples’ de­sire to ac­com­mo­date fam­ily mem­bers should they need to is a fac­tor.

“For first-time home­buy­ers that would prob­a­bly have bought a condo down­town they’re look­ing at three-bed­room houses” out­side the city, Shep­pard said.

For Si­mon, the de­ci­sion to move into a house­hold with her hus­band and par­ents is al­ready pay­ing off. She said her par­ents were so­cially iso­lated be­fore and the pan­demic made see­ing them harder.

“My par­ents were liv­ing in an apart­ment build­ing with a lot of peo­ple around them, which was re­ally stress­ful for them be­cause in a pan­demic, you don’t want to be around tons of peo­ple all the time,” she said.

“For them to be able to move out into a big­ger space, and for me to be able to come over by go­ing down­stairs, that’s been re­ally good for them.”

 ?? COUR­TESY Of r-hauz ?? Since Toronto ap­proved laneway-home by­laws in 2018, some res­i­dents are look­ing to their back­yards for a multi­gen­er­a­tional hous­ing so­lu­tion.
COUR­TESY Of r-hauz Since Toronto ap­proved laneway-home by­laws in 2018, some res­i­dents are look­ing to their back­yards for a multi­gen­er­a­tional hous­ing so­lu­tion.
 ?? PHOTO COUR­TESY OF LANESCAPE ?? Laneway homes like this one by Lanescape are be­com­ing a pop­u­lar so­lu­tion for mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions shar­ing the same prop­erty.
PHOTO COUR­TESY OF LANESCAPE Laneway homes like this one by Lanescape are be­com­ing a pop­u­lar so­lu­tion for mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions shar­ing the same prop­erty.

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