Sunday, May 24, 2009

Future Watch: Multigenerational Housing

While Europeans consider it normal for a young married couple to live with parents or siblings until they can save enough money for a down payment on their own flat, here in the US (and also in Israel), young couples have an expectation that they are entitled to their own housing, sans relatives.

That expectation, which has not been the norm throughout human history, is turning out to be unsustainable in this economic crisis. And the expectation was especially idiotic in UO and Chereidi communities where the young husband has no intention of getting a job, ever.

However, whether a group of friends moves in together, or relatives, the trend is clear - single family housing as America knows it is being put aside in favour of old-style familial and/or communal living.

USA Today online
More families move in together during housing crisis
Updated 2/3/2009 11:33 AM
By Stephanie Armour, USA TODAY

...The weak economy — which has brought surging foreclosures, sinking property values, vanishing home equity and mounting job losses — is playing a major role in family dynamics, pulling relatives under the same roof to pool their resources and aid relatives who've lost their homes.

Siblings are moving in with one another to help pay the mortgage. Adult children who've lost homes to foreclosure are moving back home with Mom and Dad. Even spouses in the throes of divorce are putting off separating, living together in awkward cold wars because they can't sell their houses.

That's in large part because those losing homes often have nowhere else to go. Many live paycheck to paycheck: Nearly 61% of local and state homeless coalitions are seeing an increase in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to an April 2008 study by the National Coalition for the Homeless. Only 5% said they hadn't seen an increase. The survey found that more than 76% of homeowners and renters who must move because of foreclosures are staying with family and friends...

...More families are living with relatives, based on the most recent statistics available. Nearly 3.5 million brothers or sisters are living in a sibling's house, according to 2007 Census Data, up from 3 million in 2000. And 3.6 million parents live with their adult children, up from 2.3 million. About 6.7 million householders live with other relatives, such as aunts or cousins, compared with 4.8 million in 2000...

...Some demographic groups are feeling the effects more than others, including younger first-time home buyers who purchased during the housing boom and older Americans hit by job losses and foreclosures who have less time to recover their financial footing...

...The housing market is drawing some families together, but challenges include lifestyle differences, generational differences, depression, money squabbles and other issues when relatives huddle together for economic relief, says Nicholas Aretakis, a career coach and author of No More Ramen: The 20-Something's Real World Survival Guide.

Moving in with relatives can be "demoralizing, humbling, dehumanizing — but a lot of people don't have a lot of choice," Aretakis says.

"You lose that sense of independence, privacy and self-esteem," he says. "You lose somewhat of your identity."

This article never questions that perhaps hanging your self-esteem on achieving material goods is not very bright to begin with - much less when the economy is in the toilet. Radical independence as the "American West" teaches it is unnatural and un-viable in real life and has been for some time. Past generations didn't ship grandparents off to nursing homes or give $250,000 mortgages to kids barely out of college - for good reasons. The social contract only works if the family or group of friends works together for the good of the whole group. Radical individualism is a product of affluence - one has to own enough land and be able to invest in enough infrastructure to be so "independent." None of that is cheap - land isn't free for the taking in this day and age. So when the wealth is gone, this selfish philosophy will go with it.

And not a minute too soon, either.

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