There is ongoing discussion around laneway and garden suites in Regina, with frequent conversations at City Hall and references in newspaper headlines. Much of the “pro” side of this issue has revolved around it being one way to meet the City’s goal of increasing growth by 30% in existing neighbourhoods. However, it does provide another benefit to residents in that it provides affordable housing and a viable option for multi-generational living.
Changes in cultures, changes in ownership
Regina’s population continues to grow, attracting people from all over the world. Many of the City’s new residents have different values and priorities when it comes to housing. Such a wide range of people and cultures has led to an increasing demand for diverse housing options, including multi-family configurations.
While North American culture has been entrenched in a model of single family housing, with adult children eventually moving out by purchasing their own home, cultures in Asia and other parts of Europe prefer to have several generations of a single family under one roof. Not only does it help with finances and household chores, but it’s also seen as a benefit to child rearing while solidifying familial bonds.
It’s a trend that’s growing across Canada. In a recent article, Avenue Calgary cited a Vanier Institute of the Family study (with information from Statistics Canada) that showed the percentage of households with grandparents living with grandchildren under the age of 14 increased from 3.3 per cent to 4.8 between 2001 and 2011. And the number of people living in multi-generational households has doubled in the past 30 years south of the border, sitting at 57 million (or 18.1 per cent of the population).
However, living under one roof is not without its challenges and why a separate living space within a single-family home can provide privacy while maintaining important interactions between generations.
There are a number of cultural and social reasons why multi-generational housing is on the rise, however we cannot discount the economic reasons as the cost of housing, childcare and senior care are increasing.
Building for a wider family model
The building industry is seeing a trend in multi-generational housing across Canada. For example, Ottawa recently changed zoning regulations to allow for laneway homes and secondary suites. The CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of British Columbia told the Globe and Mail that multi-generational living is bound to become more common as the population ages. As a result, builders are designing housing to be a better fit for extended families. Across the prairies, several homebuilders are unveiling new housing products where homes will be built with a fully developed, rentable secondary suite.
Secondary suites, when properly regulated and managed, can be a useful option for families looking to subsidize their income or share space with relatives. A concerted push towards urban densification and affordable rental units is part of the secondary suite appeal, but the demand is further spurred by an aging and culturally diverse population looking for multi-generational housing options.