The Current Housing Stock Fails to Accommodate the Needs of Extended Families

The Current Housing Stock Fails to Accommodate the Needs of Extended Families
Michela Zonta
Center for American Progress
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Extended families are growing at much faster rates than other family arrangements (e.g., nuclear and single-parent families), and the current housing stock is failing to keep pace. A report from the Center for American Progress examines the characteristics of extended families and their housing conditions. The report defines extended families as “the living arrangement of groups of individuals whose relationships to each other extend beyond the nuclear family.” This definition considers “vertical” arrangements that include either adult children or elderly parents and “horizontal” arrangements that include adult siblings or relatives of the household head(s). The author notes that much current housing stock is geared toward smaller nuclear families, which leaves many of these extended families “underhoused.” Making matters worse is a housing stock mismatch. Many of these extended families are concentrated in neighborhoods and areas that have a shortage of larger, more flexible buildings and units. The report articulates policy recommendations that will spur the creation and preservation of affordable housing for extended families.

Key findings:

  • Compared with nuclear families, extended families are more racially and ethnically diverse, more economically disadvantaged, and more likely to live in metropolitan areas. Extended families also are often multigenerational.
  • More extended families rent, live in multifamily and manufactured housing, and reside in older units than do nuclear families.
  • Nationally, the proportion of underhoused downward extended families, households that host adults from a younger generation, more than doubles that of nuclear families. The percentage of underhoused horizontal extended families doubles that of nuclear families. This varies across metropolitan areas.
  • Incentives need to be changed to preserve a greater number of housing options that use existing housing stock and infrastructure, such as small multifamily buildings. Developing more flexible housing options—such as larger affordable units and accessory dwelling units—is also recommended.