Home sweet multigenerational home: Builder explores new niche

With the economy forcing more people to squeeze into a single home, a major Las Vegas homebuilder is exploring a new niche with homes designed for multigenerational families.

Lennar Homes launched its Next Gen model earlier this month in the Madison Grove subdivision in Providence, a master-planned community developed by Focus Property Group in the far northwest Las Vegas Valley, near the proposed Kyle Canyon development.

The homes, priced from $255,000 to $345,000 and ranging from 2,500 square feet to more than 3,500 square feet, allow boomerang adult children, aging parents, in-laws and caregivers to live in separate, private spaces under one roof.

"It’s incredible how flexible the home is for uses," said Jeremy Parness, president of Lennar’s Las Vegas division. "It’s parents coming back to live with family, mom or dad, or it’s kids in their 20s. We’re being innovative, giving today’s customer, the 2012 customer, exactly what they need."

The design has "absolutely caught fire" in Phoenix and Southern California, Parness said.

Lennar has six NextGen homes under construction at Providence, including three that have been released for sale. One of them is in escrow, Parness said.

Las Vegas architect Howard Perlman took the lead in designing the 2-Gen brand home with an independent lock-off suite that has its own entry, living space and kitchen. Call it an adaptation of the traditional mother-in-law apartment, a style of housing rare enough in Southern Nevada that Perlman calls it "revolutionary" for the region.

Lennar, Beazer and Meritage are all building multigenerational homes in Phoenix, he said.

"I’m telling you it’s a revolution in Phoenix and it’s going to spread to Las Vegas," Perlman said.

About 20 percent of Americans live in multigenerational homes and 15 percent work out of their home, Perlman said. The mix can be uncomfortable and inconvenient.

"You’ve got to give them something different," the architect said. "You’ve got to give them something for two families and something for a business. Extended families have lived together for thousands of years. The thing that’s different about the 2-Gen is we took that kind of living and designed it so it would fit on the traditional suburban lot."

Because the homes can be accessed from inside and outside, they’re not considered multifamily units and are not subject to multifamily zoning, Parness said. Any issues about the number and relationship of adults living in the home are regulated by homeowners associations, he said.

Lennar wants to offer buyers more flexibility and choices in the way they live, but the economy also plays a role, Parness said. Retired parents have seen their savings and investments diminish and adult children are finding it difficult to find employment.

"The opportunity for families to share a mortgage makes a lot of economic sense for many families," he said.

Lennar surveyed more than 1,200 people in the country’s Western region and found that a third of respondents are already sharing their home with a parent, adult child or some other adult.

The Pew Research Center reports that 49 million Americans are living in a household with at least two adult generations, compared with 28 million in 1980. The Census Bureau found that 18.3 percent of U.S. households accommodated adult relatives or roommates, up from 17 percent four years earlier.

The multigenerational home could not have come at a better time, Perlman said.

"The homebuilding industry is tired and beat up," he said. "It’s still based on the nuclear family customer base of 50 years ago that used to represent more than 40 percent but now only 24 percent of families in America."

Perlman gets it. He grew up on the north side of Chicago in a bungalow with his family on the first floor and grandparents on the second floor.

"Friday night dinner upstairs and doing homework with my grandparents are some of my fondest childhood memories," he said. "Kids today don’t have that, and I think it hurts us as a culture."

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.

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