CHARLOTTE OBSERVER Enlarge
CHARLOTTE — From the outside, the new home in Waxhaw, N.C., doesn’t seem all that different from the other houses on the street.
But it has one major feature that the others don’t: Inside this home is another one.
It’s folded into the main house so inconspicuously that a passer-by would probably not do a double-take. From the street, it appears to be just a ground-level room facing the front lawn.
It’s more than a room, though. It’s a suite with the basics found in a normal house: a bedroom, a bathroom, a living-kitchen area, space for a washer and dryer — even its own front door, which is mere feet from that of the main home.
Miami-based Lennar Corp., the builder of the “Next Gen” home, is gearing it toward a very specific market: multigenerational households. Lennar sees dollar signs in the societal trend of aging parents moving in with their children as health-care costs rise and college students choosing to live with Mom and Dad as they struggle to find work in a still-rocky economy.
“Next Gen really is a series of homes designed to cater to the changing family in America today,” said Jon Hardy, president of Lennar’s Charlotte division.
In Ohio, Columbus-based M/I Homes is in the design phase for multigenerational homes that the company plans to build, said Tamara Lynch, vice president of sales and marketing for the company’s Charlotte operation. Ms. Lynch, who would not disclose locations, said M/I will put the spaces for extended families on top of garages, rather than connected to a main home. Construction won’t begin on those homes until next year, she said.
It’s a sign of the times that more families are seeking multigenerational housing, experts say.
Ms. Lynch said some cultures in the United States value living with other family members. According to Generations United, a group based in Washington, immigrants are more likely to live in multigenerational homes. M/I will be designing its homes with those people in mind, not just college graduates, she said.
Generations United also said the Great Recession has accelerated the rise in U.S. multigenerational households, which increased from 46.5 million in 2007 to 51.4 million by the end of 2009.
According to a 2012 report from the Pew Research Center, 3 in 10 parents said an adult child decided to live with them because of the economy. Pew said at the time that the share of Americans living in multigenerational family households was the highest it had been since the 1950s.
Ms. Lynch of M/I Homes said multigenerational homes have been sprouting up in the West and will make their way to the rest of the country, moving east as housing trends often do.
“We, as builders, are being challenged by the top architects to stretch our thinking in this regard,” she said. “The issue is we’re not creating those extra spaces.”
Lennar introduced Next Gen homes in Nevada, Arizona, and California starting last year, said Mr. Hardy, the Charlotte division president. Next Gen homes are in 25 U.S. markets, he said, adding that the company recently sold its 1,000th.
The Next Gen suites range from about 450 square feet to about 800 square feet.
The Waxhaw home, which has three bedrooms in the main home, is priced at $327,000, or about $100 a square foot. The house has a three-car garage.
Even as home builders design homes big enough for lots of family members to share spaces, they are also trying to find ways to give family members privacy. In Lennar’s home in Waxhaw, the second floor of the main house features a loft “so that if you need to get away,” you can, Veronica Perez, director of sales, said.