Bark Design architect's Maleny House relative's apartment. Image by Christopher Frederick Jones.
Bark Design architect's Maleny House relative's apartment. Image by Christopher Frederick Jones.

Push for age-inclusive housing gains momentum

LIVING with parents or grandparents may not be everyone’s idea of heaven,  but there is growing interest in multi-generational living on the Sunshine Coast.

Bark Design Architects director Lindy Atkin says the design trend is gaining momentum for a handful of key reasons. Among them, multi-generational homes are more affordable and allow the capital costs of home ownership to be shared.

“It is becoming more and more difficult for younger generations to be able to buy their own properties, so they are often living at home with their parents for longer,” Ms Atkin said.

“The same applies for older people not being able to afford to rent or buy in later years, so the option of living with their children becomes financially appealing.”

Examples of such homes that her firm has designed include a two-bedroom studio in the Noosa hinterland where a couple wanted a self-contained “studio” on their property for their daughter and grandson to live in.

Lily Parsons is Sunshine Coast Open House Young Ambassador 2019.
Lily Parsons is Sunshine Coast Open House Young Ambassador 2019.

Master of Architecture  student Lily Parsons said multi-generational housing made perfect sense as a person’s mobility fluctuated through their life.

Together with Ms Atkin and multi-award-winning Coast architect John Mainwaring, Ms Parsons will be part of a panel discussion on the topic on October 18 at the Sunshine Coast Open House Forum.

She said whether it be due to pregnancy, illness, injury or ageing, everyone had periods of reduced ability, and the possibility of having older generations living with families presented an opportunity with far-reaching benefits.

“When we’re talking about multi-generational living, we’re really talking about catering for different bodies and different abilities,” she said.

“In architectural terms this means designing in an adaptable and flexible way that acknowledges the body isn’t static.

“If homes and houses are designed in a way that acknowledges the balance between privacy and individuality against connection and community, we see an opportunity for genuine and sustainable support.”

Examples of homes designed for multiple generations include large houses with a shared or separate kitchens and living spaces; multiple homes on acreage and tiny houses adjacent to a main house.

Key features of the homes include adaptable spaces — concertina walls for example — and ramps, wide halls and bathrooms to ensure wheelchair accessibility.

Ms Parson said shared labour and emotional support were just a few of the well-documented benefits of those kinds of designs.

“Having a sense of community is one of the key aspects of having happiness, so I think looking at multi-generational living, and more people sharing well-designed homes, this has the ability to contribute in a very real way to our communities and wellbeing,” she said.

She said if the norm in home design was to be more inclusive of older people with varying mobility and other physical ability, people with disability would also benefit.

Gabriel Poole's Container House (granny flat). Image: Kim Guthrie.
Gabriel Poole's Container House (granny flat). Image: Kim Guthrie.

She said having grandparents at home helped keep the younger generation in touch with them, and recent coverage of the poor standards at many aged care facilities had uncovered a need for drastic change in how society housed the elderly.

“So many stories that have come out of the aged care royal commission are quite horrifying, and you hear stories about individuals and families who have decided to take on the care of their parents or grandparents because of the lack of support they’ve been able to find in aged care housing.

“I think because of that, lots of people are having parents or grandparents in their own homes,” she said.

“There’s a lot of reform that needs to happen in that area, but it really does start the conversation about … living in multi-generational spaces.”

Ms Atkins said her clients found that multi-generational housing offered unique resale opportunities.

“Clients are asking architects to explore alternative layouts to allow sharing dwellings and the potential for extending if necessary to accommodate other family members,” she said.

The open forum on multi-generational living will be held at the USC Innovation Centre from 5.30pm on October 18.

Thirty buildings are opening their doors as part of the Sunshine Coast Open Homes, which is also running a photography competition.