One in five Australians lives in a multigenerational household, reveals a new research study from the UNSW City Futures Research Centre.

But is this new trend only about saving money or free childcare? According to Dr Edgar Liu, senior research fellow at the UNSW research centre, housing affordability is one of the key drivers behind the growth of multigenerational living in Australia.

Many families are reconsidering their living options due to stress from increasing life and financial pressures, and consciously choosing to move into a multigenerational household where kids, parents and grandparents live under the one roof.

While this living arrangement is common in many parts of the world, it is quietly emerging in Australia. In Sydney, for instance, one in four people live with multiple generations of relatives.

“You have young people who, increasingly, are unable to afford to leave home, and at the same time, you have [their parents and grandparents] experiencing perhaps similar financial stress,” says Liu who studies the emergence of multigenerational housing in Australia.

Beyond financial reasons, families are also entering this living arrangement for companionship and support.

“It’s a way for families to stay connected, and allows for greater intergenerational connections... especially for the older generation; they can be closer to the family and spend more time with the grandkids.”

Another reason, especially when it comes to the older generation, is the desire to age in place, rather than move into institutional aged care.

“The fastest-growing age group for multigenerational household members is the over 65s,” Liu says.

“There’s an aversion to moving into aged care for obvious reasons we see now, with the Aged Care Royal Commission, and policy-wise, the government doesn’t want people to move into institutions; they want people to live in the general community. So, more families are considering providing that care and support themselves.”

However, it’s not all rosy when it comes to living in a multigenerational household. While it may suit some family members, the living arrangements can put further strain on family relationships.

Liu observes that the middle generation could feel burdened, especially when their siblings assume that the elderly parents are completely taken care of so they don’t need to help out. Multigenerational households also have to cope with noise and lack of privacy.

Liu believes that the upward trend towards multigenerational living will have significant policy implications for urban planning as well as aged care services.

“It’s quite hard to find a house with enough bedrooms that’s affordable, has reasonable access to jobs and services appropriate to the needs of each generation.”

Apartments form a significant part of new housing and they are definitely not large enough to accommodate a multigenerational household. This means new developments should have the right mix of housing for people.

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