Solutions to An Expanding Family
The world’s population is approaching eight billion, but the distribution isn’t balanced out. China recently reversed their one-child policy an Denmark is promoting baby-making vacations, while many third world countries are actively pursuing birth-control initiatives. On a smaller scale, families expand every day through a variety of methods.
With the global economy still in a hole, adult kids are moving back in with their parents, sometimes bringing spouses and children with them. At the other end of the spectrum, elderly parents are moving closer to their kids, both for emotional support and practical assistance. Sometimes they move next door, other times they take the next bedroom.
Then of course there’s the regular expansion model – having a partner and making (or adopting) babies. Whatever the reason is for your family’s expansion, you need more living space, and if you can afford it, you have several viable options. They all involve money, and lots of it, plus a good deal of licensing and planning.
Renovate your home
If you’re a home-owner in a reasonable neighbourhood, you can expand your house. This depends on the size of your lot and any restrictions from your local government or housing association. You’d have to think about what new features you need. Is it a nursery for the new baby or an extra room for your older parents? It may even be a self-contained unit for your adult child or sibling and their family, or a guest wing for in-laws.
If you want a complete ‘home’, you could convert the garage, attic or basement, complete with its own bathroom and kitchenette. An en-suite nursery can be converted into a room for elderly parents. The adjoining door will be helpful if your new resident is ailing.
A childhood room can be expanded by splitting external walls and stretching the room’s square footage outwards. A section of your living room or dining room could also be closed off to create additional living space. Make sure you get all the required permissions from your regulatory authorities, and don’t forget to warn the neighbours.
Buy a bigger house
Plan B is to move house. You could sell your current home or rent it out for additional income, then buy a new place, if your finances allow it. Make a wish list of preferred neighbourhoods, access to work and schools, and price range. You should also include more practical concerns, like the number of bedrooms, a yard, or a pool.
There’s usually a trade-off between location and amenities. If you pick a suburb further from your CBD, you can get more square footage, both inside the house and in the surrounding yard. However, it may translate to a longer commute and more home maintenance in terms of hygiene and landscaping. You may also be limited by proximity to relatives.
If you’re not ready for suburban living, you might buy adjoining apartments. This can be helpful if part of the family requires partial independence and privacy. Siblings with families of their own may pool their limited resources and buy flats next to each other, though the stable family will take up the bulk of the cost. You could also rent out the house next door for your family members, until they get back on their feet.
Park a tiny house
An interesting alternative is to fix up your garden shed and turn it into a residential space, if your community allows this. It will require insulation, electricity, and running water, though these services can be shared with the main house. You can partition the shed into a sleeping area and an entertainment area, and put in relevant furniture
Do a complete audit and resolve any issues like leaks, gaps, rodents, lighting problems, and security issues. Alternatively, buy or construct a tiny house and park it in your yard. There are plenty of commercial designs available, and if they need to, your family members can simply drive it away when the time comes.
The advantage of a tiny house over a refurbished shed is the utilities are already structured. Tiny houses have their own lines of pint-sized electronics and accessories, including compost toilets, mini cookers and sinks, tiny fridges and washing machines, and convertible multi-purpose furniture. They can be constructed in 2 to 3 months by the average DIY enthusiast.
Install a granny flat
Wheeled homes aren’t for everyone, so you could go with a granny flat instead. In Australia, the regulations are quite specific. It has to be self-contained and can’t be more than 80 square metres. Fortunately, you can buy a pre-fab granny flat which can be assembled and erected in less than a day. It can be as big as two bedrooms, with a bathroom, and kitchenette, and even a porch. It’s perfect for grandparents, recent college graduates, or adult families that suddenly find themselves back home.