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Living with the family: Pros and cons

House with a pound coin garden pathThe idea of living under one roof with a multitude of family members may not be your idea of the perfect living arrangement, but inter-generational homes are making a comeback.

Homes where three generations live under one roof were common in the UK in the first half of the 20th century, but dwindled in popularity from the 1960s onwards.

However, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), we are now seeing a revival, with the number of multi-generational homes in the UK having increased by 27 per cent (from 187,000 to 238,000) between 2001 and 2010.

Three-generation households

Bucking the trend of people wanting to preserve their independence, more and more families are now living together to solve financial and social problems.

According to findings from property website,, 44 per cent of those living in multi-generational households do so to stay close to their family, while 33 per cent say this move is being driven by financial considerations.

Other key factors behind this type of living arrangement include family tradition, looking after a sick relative, dealing with a marital split, and helping to manage the rising cost of childcare.

“It seems that old-fashioned values are back in vogue, as children, parents, grandparents, and in some cases, even great-grandparents, choose to live together under the same roof,” says Samantha Baden from

Financial pressures

Many older people are being forced to consider communal living arrangements with their families due to poor pension provision, rising living costs and higher fuel bills.

In addition, the spiralling cost of residential care is starting to hit hard, with many facing extortionate bills.

Meanwhile, graduate debt, high house prices and hefty deposit requirements are combining to delay first timers from getting a foot on the property ladder.

As a result, a growing number spend more years with their parents while they try to save for a deposit.

“The phenomenon is being partly driven by financial pressures on the retired, whose pensions are insufficient,” says Melanie Bien from broker Private Finance. “It is also being driven by young adults who struggle to buy – or rent – a home.”

As a result, many middle-aged homeowners are supporting both adult children and parents under the same roof.

Some families are remortgaging their properties to build a granny flat, or to finance a deposit on a larger home – to accommodate three generations.

For those feeling the pressure, there are significant savings to be made by combining incomes and sharing mortgage payments, as well as pooling cars and other resources – and dividing up the bills.

Pros and cons

On the plus side, setting up a household in this way can mean quality time with family members and closer family bonding.

In fact, those who move in grandparents or siblings often find it offers additional benefits, such as childcare – and granny care.

On the downside, by having three or more generations under one roof, there may be issues with a lack of space and independence; there can also be problems with a lack of privacy and increasing family arguments.

Plan ahead

If you’re contemplating multi-generational living, it’s worth drawing up a plan at the offset, so that everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities; this can prevent the division of chores from becoming a source of frustration.

Equally, given that money issues can prove problematic, it’s vital to appoint one person to manage the finances, so that you can ensure all the bills are divided fairly.

You may want to visit a financial adviser to ensure all issues can be addressed, while a solicitor can help you draw up a contract between all the parties.

Multi-generational households are here to stay

The rise in multi-generational living is the legacy of social and economic factors, as dependent children wait for longer to get onto the housing ladder, and increasing life expectancy leads more over-60s to turn to their children for care and companionship.

Given that many of these issues are only likely to get worse, extended financial families are likely to become an increasingly familiar phenomenon in the years to come.

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Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw is a regular contributor to and is the former deputy money editor at The Independent and Independent on Sunday. Before that, she worked as a money and City reporter on The Daily Express and Sunday Express.
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