The Future of Multigenerational Housing in Existing Communities: Insights for Transatlantic Cities

July 26, 2019
Geraldine Ide Gardner
Alexander Nasserjah
3 min read
Why Transatlantic Cities Need Multigenerational Housing

Why Transatlantic Cities Need Multigenerational Housing

In November 2017, the Urban and Regional Program (URP) of the German Marshall Fund of the States (GMF) convened 150 of its transatlantic leaders for its annual BUILD conference, which took place in Detroit, Michigan. GMF partnered with AARP on a breakout session titled Multigenerational Cities: Aging as Innovation. This session brought together a cross-sector group to discuss the importance of building multigenerational cities, and to share thoughts on the policies, plans, and practices that contribute to age-friendly cities. From this discussion, GMF and AARP gleaned that transatlantic urban leaders viewed housing and mobility as key factors to achieving age-friendly cities.

As a follow-up to BUILD, GMF and AARP convened a group of 13 transatlantic experts from their networks to explore a specific dimension of multigenerational housing in transatlantic cities: how can the existing housing stock in established communities be adapted with new housing models and technological innovations? This is an important part of the overall discussion of affordable and accessible housing challenges facing many cities. The workshop had a specific focus on existing neighborhoods and housing stock to emphasize the importance of adapting what is already there rather than building new. Given the large amount of housing stock in cities on both sides of the Atlantic that is not fit to support aging in place, this should be a priority for policymakers and planners in building more age-friendly communities.

Over two days participants discussed alternative housing models and technological innovations (such as smart home systems and wearable devices) that offer the opportunity to connect multiple generations, reduce isolation, and improve integration. The group worked to identify good practice and specific conditions that would enable implementation, all with an eye to the transferability to both the United States, U.K., and European contexts. It was clear from the outcome of the workshop that the rapid pace of technological change will continue to influence the ability of people to age in place and thrive in their existing communities. While urban leaders must be plugged into how technology can support age-friendly policy objectives, the group identified an opportunity to focus additional transatlantic engagement around alternative housing models that serve multiple generations.

This policy paper synthesizes and expands on the key points from this year-long dialogue on housing solutions for multigenerational cities. The first section presents a brief overview of the key trends and drivers that suggest that alternative housing models are important levers for enhancing multigenerational cities. It then presents the four models discussed in the June 2018 workshop, including examples of good practice, policy enablers, and factors to consider for transatlantic transfer. The final section lays out a pathway for moving from ideas to action that policymakers and practitioners can consult to determine what type of housing models may be appropriate for the unique context of their communities. This policy paper is intended to be a primer for the future exploration of specific models and the enabling of policies that can provide further support and direction to transatlantic urban and regional leaders.

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