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Homes for multiple generations

Households made up of several generations are on the rise, and it's not just about grandma and grandpa needing more assistance in their sunset years. The numbers speak for themselves: In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau counted 4.2 million American households consisting of three or more generations living together -- a jump of about 40 percent over the bureau's 1990 findings.

In response, some home builders are offering multigenerational configurations among their design options.

Developer Jim Greenup, who is building two projects in Spokane, Wash., that will include multigenerational options, says he got his ideas from his own family's living arrangements. Thirty years ago, Greenup says, his widowed mother and his grandmother moved into attached units in a duplex. When his grandmother died, his uncle moved into the apartment Greenup's grandma vacated.

"Both were caregiving situations for my mom," he says. "Twenty to 25 percent of families in America are caring for an aging relative, and duplexes aren't designed right for the concept of joined housing. There are problems, because the bathrooms don't work right for aging in place, and the stairways and other circulators do not function well.

"I am making bathrooms that are wheelchair-accessible, with showers with roll-in capability."

One of Greenup's housing options revives a traditional form of multigenerational living: accessory dwelling units, more informally known as mother-in-law apartments, built on the same lot as the main dwelling. He plans smaller, secondary residences attached to the back of the main house, each fronting different streets, with a courtyard between them.

Building code concerns
Some local building codes don't allow for accessory units in single-family-home neighborhoods, on the grounds that they could be used as rentals. In Spokane, Greenup says, such developments can be approved by the municipality's planned-unit development process.

Other Greenup homes are to include two master bedrooms and two master bathrooms. Some are designed with primary and secondary suites on the same level; others will be on separate levels.

They will range in size from 2,500 to 3,500 square feet, Greenup says, and are priced from the mid-$200,000s to the upper-$500,000s.

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