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06.13.14 – Multigenerational home designed by Williamson Chong Architects featured in Metropolis magazine

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 5.1 million multigenerational households in the United States,” writes Martin C. Pedersen of Metropolis magazine. “This is not a new phenomenon. But that number is likely to grow significantly in the future, due to a shrinking middle class, more young people living at home longer, retiring Baby Boomers who want to age in place, and longer life expectancies.”

Multigenerational households are growing in Canada as well. The 2011 Statistics Canada census found that among Canada’s 13 million private households, 362,6000 were multigenerational — but housing isn’t usually designed with these kind of households in mind.

Imagine if our housing stock included homes that had the flexibility to accommodate the life cycles of various families, providing them with the benefits of multigenerational living (which, among other advantages, is more affordable) and a certain degree of privacy (somthing that is often sacrificed in a larger household). Williamson Chong — the firm of Associate Professor Shane Williamson, Betsy Williamson, and Alumnus Donald Chong — did just that in their design of a multi-unit, multigenerational house in Toronto’s Grange Park neighbourhood. The house, on Grange Avenue, is now under construction.

Metropolis magazine invited the firm to write about this project for an article that looked at “Redesigning the American home for extended families.”

“Stacking a series of rental units—along with a grandparents’ suite and living spaces for a young family—on a double-wide lot allows us to explore one of our recurring themes: Incremental Urbanism,” wrote the firm. Incremental Urbanism explores untapped possibilities for intensification in the urban landscape.

This project begins with the blending of two households. A professional couple with a young son sells its small, one-bedroom condominium; the grandparents sell their suburban home as a way to downsize after becoming empty nesters. Together, the two families create a new living arrangement that allows for autonomy, while still taking advantage of the benefits of proximity: The grandparents can look after their grandson, yet embrace the security of being looked after as they age. The professional couple, in exchange, is presented an opportunity for a ground-up home in the city, which might otherwise be unaffordable.

The ground-floor and basement rental units, typical for this neighborhood given its location near the university, allow the newly extended family to optimize its living space with a careful but fluid nod to the future. The rental units provide the growing family necessary cash flow in the early years, while paving the way for an array of different spatial options in the later years.

For the full article, visit Metropolis magazine’s website.