In September, the Census reported that almost a third of households were “doubled up,” meaning more than one generation of adults were living under one roof. All in all, 61.7 million adults, or 27.7 percent, were doubled-up in 2007, rising to 69.2 million, or 30.0 percent, in 2011.
The AARP Public Policy Institute also confirmed multi-generational homes are on the rise in the United States, reporting there were roughly one-half million more households that were multi-generational in 2010 than in 2009, and that in the past two years, the number of multi generational households grew faster than in any other two-year period since 2000, coinciding largely with the recession of the past few years.
For a variety of reasons, both cultural and economic, families today are rethinking their housing needs. Adults are living together with their grandparents, in-laws, or grown children who are not economically ready to move out. Particularly for those who want a comfortable way to look after elderly parents, multi-generational living is an appropriate solution. Parents can comfortably live near their caregivers, while still providing independence and privacy for everyone.
As a result, builders are receiving more requests to build in-law suites or, as the term is starting to emerge, to “turn one house into two.”
An in-law addition can be built just as any other home addition, can be purchased as a modular unit that’s then attached to your home or set on your property, or can be built in a garage (attached or detached). These suites typically are on a single level and usually comprised of a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and a small living room area. In-law additions need to include extra amenities so as to allow for aging in place, such as wider hallways and doorways, no step entrances, extra room in front of bathroom and kitchen cabinetry, grab bars, levered handled door knobs, comfort height toilets, and curb-less showers.
You can find in-law home addition plans in magazines and on the Internet that can often meet your requirements. If building new, expect to pay around $110 to $130 per square foot for construction. And while a remodel or addition can make the cost of an in-law prohibitive for some homeowners, it can be less expensive than the money required for long-term care for aging relatives in a facility - and a potential source of income down the road.
Before getting too involved in the idea however, check with your municipality to find out how your local zoning and building codes affect this type of addition. There may be zoning issues to having two separate residences on the same building lot, or special features that the addition must include, like separate utility services, as mandated by code.