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Multi-generational housing: the bigger picture

Studies by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute found financial circumstances are an overriding factor in the formation of multi-generational households – and are even more dominant than cultural reasons. 

The benefits of a multi-generational household are obvious: companionship, ease in providing care, upholding cultural traditions, practicality and convenience, and inter-generational solidarity. As were the downsides: noise, financial constraints, inadequate space for privacy, and the impact on relationships with other family members.

Calls for tax breaks

At a time when one would normally expect baby boomers to be downsizing at this stage of their lives, many are trading up – for the sake of family. Calls have even been made to give tax breaks to families where there are three generations living under one roof.

In the UK, for example, the number of homes where two or more generations live under the same roof has soared by more than half in a decade. The Office for National Statistics reports around 419,000 British households live this way – with an increasing number of elderly parents sharing a home with their children and grandchildren.

A lighter side to the trend

The changing demographic of households has spawned nicknames such as the Sandwich Generation, Boomerang Kids and the SKI Generation (Spending the Kids’ Inheritance).

Younger members of the baby boomers are sometimes referred to as “the Sandwich Generation” because they have children still living at home in addition to elderly parents. 

Second, Australia and New Zealand have had a wave of so-called “boomerang kids” moving back in with their parents because of the rising cost of living and out-of-reach property prices.

In the bigger picture, social researcher Mark McCrindle said 2020 loomed as a landmark year in Australia. 

“In 2020, the median age was almost 40 … in 1980, it was just 29. There were more 65-year-olds than one-year-olds. There were as many people aged 60-70 as those aged 10-20. By 2020, the population pyramid was inverted. There were more people aged 50 (338,081) than any other age, reflecting the baby boom and migration boom of those born in 1970-71. In 2020, life expectancy at birth exceeded 84 years, and more than one in five people was aged over 60.” 

These predictions have proved salient. By then, many baby boomers have retired and Generation Y dominate the workforce (42 per cent). The average job tenure will be three years and more than one in three workers is employed on a casual basis.  

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