"The multi-generational American family household is staging a comeback — driven in part by the job losses and home foreclosures of recent years but more so by demographic changes that have been gathering steam for decades.” - Pew Research Center
Due to the fallout from the Great Recession and the aging of parents, the rise of in-law and multigenerational living arrangements has been steady. With families combining resources to make the best of a less than ideal situation, the in-law suite has reclaimed its place in American households that it once had in the 70’s.
According to a Pew Research Center study in 2011, large numbers of Americans moved in with their relatives to boost the number of multi-generational households. From 2007-2009, these households jumped from 46.5 million to 51.4 million with lower incomes or unemployment helping drive the increase.
A record 57 million Americans (18.1 percent of the U.S. population) lived in multi-generational family households from 1980 to 2012.
And while having “roommates" can be a hassle, for some households it is the most sensible thing to do.
Plus, with the in-law suite, in-laws or extended family can have a sense of independent living from their kin, all the while being just a wall apart.
Below are a couple of things to consider before taking on an in-law suite remodel:
Legality. Permits are likely to be required before making any changes to the home. This is especially true if the in-law suite will be an entirely new addition to the property and not just a room remodel. Contact the local zoning board to ensure the project is 100% legal.
Health. If the in-law suite will be occupied by aging relatives who might not be able to get up and down stairs as easily as they used to, make accessibility a top priority. It is ideal to locate the in-law suite on the first floor, so relatives won’t have a hard time entering and exiting the suite.
Privacy. Regardless of who will be moving in, it is a safe bet that they will value their privacy. The suite should afford adequate privacy to all members of the household. If doable, a separate entrance from the rest of the home is a great way to ensure privacy.
Customization. If the occupants are older, install certain amenities, such as grab bars in the shower and bathroom, during the initial construction so changes will be minimized in the future. Install easy-open drawers along with separate light and air-conditioning controls. Place electrical outlets on both sides of the bed and install a separate phone line, Internet connection and cable jacks. A stereo system unique to the suite will add a nice touch.
Safety. Safety features like fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are non-negotiable. Be sure the alarms on each of these detectors are loud enough so that everyone can hear them -- including elderly men and women who suffer from hearing loss. Motion detecting lamps at night will also help to reduce the risk of falling.
When done with thought and understanding, in-law suites will promote family harmony without sacrificing independence.