Multi-generational housing—with a twist—is the way of the future for many families
At 71, Rita St. George is still very active. The last thing her son Bisher Hanania wanted was to put her in a retirement home, but for peace of mind, he wanted her close. That’s why a multi-generational home was a perfect solution for their family.
Hanania knew that his mother would want her own space. “It’s really a home within a home,” says the Kanata resident. “She has her own kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom and her own entrance. But we know she is just next door and is safe and the grandkids can visit any time they want.”
From its exterior, the Metric Homes house—with 3,180 sq. ft above grade and a 1,045 sq. ft. finished basement; and an additional 1,125 sq. ft above grade and a 585 sq. ft finished basement in the adjoining bungalow—looks like just a large house. Inside the front door, the space continues to give the appearance of a single living area, but the two unique living areas are interconnected. Hanania’s mother has her own main floor unit with a separate private entrance, and Hanania lives in the main part of the house with his wife and children. “The only thing we share is the laundry,” says Hanania. “And the other beauty of two separate but attached homes is that my mother has complete control of any temperature control she wants.”
Hanania’s brother lives in the finished basement studio apartment. “This is such a great idea for large families,” says Hanania, “especially if they have an older parent or a relative they want to keep close by. We got to choose our own finishings and so did my mother for her unit, so it’s completely her style. And in the long run, it’s a less expensive option than a retirement home. And besides,” he jokes, “I now have two fridges to look in for snacks.”
For Shawn Bernier, it’s all about each family. “Every home we build is completely individualized,” says Bernier, one of the owners and vice-president of operations of Metric Homes. “In our over 23 years, every home we’ve built is unique.”
Bernier says there were a few hoops to jump through when they first approached the city with the idea of two separate dwelling units on a single lot. “There were some nuances and restrictions that needed to be determined,” says Bernier, “as these types of homes remain one legal entity, whereas duplexes are separate entities. We needed a few new requirements and a reassurance to the city that these units wouldn’t look anything like a duplex,” says Bernier. “They are, in fact one legal entity, but with two homes in a single home. Property taxes and the water bill are combined, but all other utilities are split.”
Bernier says it’s still pretty much a unique concept and Metric Homes is well-positioned to deliver these types of homes. “They’re built on city lots, in neighbourhoods with accessible amenities, and yet they still feel unique to your family situation.”
Bernier also points out that the living space is very adaptable. “On many designs, we’ve already considered how to integrate an elevator, should the clients choose to add one, and other considerations for adaptable living. It’s up to each client, but we do have the conversation and encourage them to have the discussion about wider doors for wheelchair or walker access, curb-less shower stalls and backing in place for grab bars in the bathroom. And right now, we are working plans for more adaptability.”
The family social aspect is important as well. Bernier notes that families living in a home within a home were able to socialize and see each other during the pandemic, which became hugely important for older adults and seniors.
“The idea of a multigenerational home is becoming more popular,” says Bernier. “It’s not as expensive as a retirement home or trying to keep two households running. “It keeps families together and close by and at some point, the smaller unit can be rented out. There are a lot of pluses for everyone.”
HN Homes sales and marketing manager Vasi Jackson started seeing the slow trend to multigenerational homes in Kanata about 10 years ago.
“We started getting requests for roughed-in framing for future elevators in homes,” says Jackson. “We’d be asked to add an extra bedroom on the ground floor in some of our larger models for easier accessibility. And even though a finished basement comes with our homes, we’d be asked for an added bathroom and bedroom.” Jackson says that many of these changes are not only requested in their large home designs, but in smaller, well-designed floor plans as well.
Good design and well-used space make a difference. “Putting in space for aging parents is becoming an option for many families,” says Jackson. “And increasingly, it’s becoming economically more viable.” Like Bernier, Jackson has noted requests for solid entry handrails, wider doors for easier access and backing for grab bars in bathrooms. “We expect to see more homes that trend to being multigenerational,” says Jackson, “and HN Homes is ready to deliver designs that provide good space and a sense of togetherness for everyone.”
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