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02.25.16 – Multigenerational housing: Daniels faculty and alumni rethink the family home

A recent article in the Globe and Mail explored how rapidly rising housing prices in the city are affecting not only young adults struggling to enter the housing market, but also residents approaching retirement who are looking to downsize.

According to some Toronto architects, there is a simple solution: rethink the family home to suit several generations. The growing group of local architects and firms taking a multigenerational approach includes Daniels aulumni Janna Levitt (BArch 1986), Dean Goodman (BArch 1983), Lloyd Alter (BArch 1976), and Williamson Chong Architects, firm of alumnus Donald Chong (BArch 1994), Associate Professor Shane Williamson and Betsy Williamson.

Not wanting to move into an apartment or to leave their familiar neighbourhood, Alter and his wife have taken a creative approach to the architecture of the empty nest. "We're going into a generational change where the kids don't have enough money, and the parents have the house and don't need it," Alter told The Globe and Mail.  With that in mind, they chose to divide their house, which they've inhabited since 1984, into a duplex with one unit for themselves to occupy and the other for their daughter and her fiancé.

That adaptability can be built into the architecture of a new house, according to Williamson Chong. Their Grange Triple Double house, which was also recently profiled in the Architectural Record, was built for a three-generational family and designed to adapt as the owners' needs evolve. "The ingredients for this kind of house," partner Betsy Williamson tells The Globe and Mail, "are spaces that are discrete yet flixible."

With the same goal of adapatability in mind, Levitt and Goodman designed their own home a decade ago, when their children were still teenagers. The foresight to design a private area for their children has turned into an opportunity to rent that space out now that their children have all moved out.

The soultion comes down to good design: "It's important to think about what you're building for," Goodman tells The Globe and Mail, "not just right now, but in the longer term."