In times gone by, multiple generations of families living under one roof would have been the norm, but this changed in recent years as the onus was placed on home ownership. Are we seeing a swing back in the other direction?

With a shortage of new homes being built across the UK, as well as rising house prices, young people are struggling more than ever to get onto the property ladder.

The gap between earnings and the amount that must be borrowed has widened significantly – in 2017, the average borrowing is £137,000, representing an average 3.58 times the annual income. In 1977, £8,376 was the median amount borrowed by first-time buyers, which was less than double their yearly income.

This shift has forced first-time buyers to look at other options, causing the upsurge of “Generation Rent“, as well as those opting to stay in the family home for longer.

The rise of multigen

According to the Office for National Statistics, there was a 46% rise in the number of people living in multigenerational properties – where more than two generations live under the same roof – between 2005 and 2011.

While the financial implications of buying a home are obviously one factor affecting young people, there are other benefits to this style of living.

A study by Strata Homes revealed that 57% of 18-24-year-olds surveyed were still living at home because they “didn’t feel ready to go”. And 21% said that they lacked the household skills their parents and grandparents had, which is why they chose to live with them.

The report highlighted a number of benefits of multigenerational living. Aside from the most obvious advantage of saving money through sharing bills and general living costs, which can then be put towards a house deposit when the time is right, youngsters can also learn valuable life skills such as money management. Around 50% of those surveyed said that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations were more adept at being frugal with cash than our generation, and 79% said that it is vital to know how to handle finances when living alone.

Benefits for young and old

Young adults can also learn from their parents and grandparents how to cook, clean and maintain a home – the  survey showed that 63% of people had learned to cook from members of their family, and around 60% had learned cleaning skills from the older generations.

Child cooking

But it’s not just young adults who can benefit from being able to stay at home for longer. According to the report, millennials can teach their parents and grandparents a thing or two as well.

Two out of five UK parents have learnt about modern technology and social media from their children, with mothers in particular (around half) saying it was their offspring who’d taught them how to keep up to date.

Another benefit for the older generation in particular is having some company. Loneliness among the elderly has been found to be a real problem in society in recent years, and those living with multiple generations of their family will be less at risk.

Bring in the builders

The number of homes being converted to adapt to multigenerational living is currently around 125,000 a year, but this is expected to increase.

Loft conversions, basement conversions and extensions can all be completed to increase the living space in a home, but the drawback can be that people feel cramped and overcrowded. Alternatively, some people have created separate living annexes for family members, allowing greater privacy and independence.

Architectural designer Greg Toon said: “Well-thought-out house design is key to living in a multi-family home and can greatly mitigate the pressures of three – or even four – generations living under one roof.”

He added: “Whether staying in your existing home and making room for relatives, or buying somewhere new that suits everyone’s needs, it always makes sense to have accommodation for grandparents on the ground floor, providing easy access. This will likely free up space on the first floor, which you could utilise as a living area, or even a second lounge for younger generations.”

Toon values the importance of a social hub for the family, although not everyone has enough space for this.

“If space is limited, think about multifunctional solutions: a dining table can double as a worktop for food preparation or a large island can be both work surface and diner. Use sofas and rugs in the space to help diffuse noise, as well as create zones for different uses.”

As millennials start to look for new solutions and alternatives to chasing the ever-elusive property ladder, it seems that multigenerational living could offer the answer for a growing number of families.