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Is Multigenerational Living the New Canadian Reality?

Grandparent, son and granddaughter outside, laughing in nature.
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It’s no secret that living in Canada is expensive. Last year, the Consumer Price Index (a measure of prices paid by consumers for goods and services) rose 3.9 per cent in the country. And while that’s not as big as the 40-year high increase of 6.8 per cent in 2022, many of us are still adjusting to higher prices across the board, from gas to food.

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Then there are housing prices. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation showed record-low vacancies and affordability concerns for renters in 2023, while the Canadian Real Estate Association indicated the national average home price was 5.1 per cent higher in December 2023 compared to one year prior.

The good news is that the housing market is on track to rebound this year, and experts predict that mortgage interest rates will remain lower than recent highs. Still, for young Canadians looking to get out on their own, it can be an incredibly tough time.

That may be one reason more adults are living with at least one of their parents.

Related: What is the ‘Cash for Keys’ Rental Debate in Canada Right Now?

A New Reality

According to Statistics Canada, multigenerational living increased nine per cent from 2016 to 2021, from 406,645 multigenerational households to 441,750. While finances may be one reason for the increase, it’s important to consider other factors, such as more people moving back home during the pandemic or ethnocultural drivers.

What is clear is that more adults aged 25 and older are living with their parents than in the past. Environics Analytics reported that 2,535,109 people aged 25 and older lived with their parents in 2023, up 49 per cent from the number who did so in 2018 (1,779,303).

For some, the money they’re able to save by living with their parents is a big driver.

Parents with daughter and grandmother sitting on couch.
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“To go out on my own right now is pretty impossible,” says Daniel Van Wetten, a 33-year-old who lives with his mom in his childhood home in Mississauga, Ont. “I would probably barely break even, but this way I’m still able to save a good amount of money and obviously help my mom out with a lot of stuff at home.”

Van Wetten works at a roofing plant and earns a decent salary with benefits, a pension, security, and the ability to work overtime. He admits that it can be awkward to meet new people and reveal his living situation, but that’s changed in recent years.

“People understand it now. More and more people are staying at home for a lot longer,” he says. “Even after going to school and getting a good job.”

Related: The Best Places for Gen Z to Live In Canada

Being There for Aging Parents

Van Wetten jokes that he still has a lot of growing up to do if he wants to save and get his own place. But in reality, he’s comfortable and likes being able to help his mom out and keep her company following his father’s passing in 2020.

“It wasn’t even a thought in my head that I would want to go anywhere,” he says. “I’m glad I was able to be around for that.”

Vanessa Simmonds, a single mom in Ajax, Ont., says she isn’t in a financial situation to move out due to her single income and the costs of raising her seven-year-old son. So she lives with her parents, but has also been able to be there for her mother in unexpected ways.

“My dad has had some health issues, and I’m able to be there to support her and know she’s not alone,” Simmonds says. “I love living with my mom and dad because it means my son has a great relationship with them. I joke that when I do move out, my parents are coming with me!”

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Related: This is Where Home Prices Are Dropping Most in Canada This Winter

A Mutually Beneficial Arrangement

Kinga, a 40-year-old with a BA in cultural anthropology from the University of Guelph, recently celebrated the five-year anniversary of moving in with her husband and her mother-in-law. At first, the living arrangement was temporary, but it turned out to be ideal for everyone.

“As it turns out, my mother-in-law and I get along really, really well,” she says. “At the time I moved in, I was working my way out of a severe depression, and having the support here was incredible for me. On top of that, because it’s a good-sized house, we all have our own space.”

Couple with their older parents cooking a meal in kitchen.
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She adds that she and her husband are able to help with the division of labour, especially jobs that are harder for an older person to do. Meanwhile, she and her husband have been on a fertility journey for the past three years, a journey that would be impossible without her current financial and emotional support.

“It’s next to impossible to work full-time and go through this process,” she says. “I’m sure we could find a way, but it would be difficult to live on our own and make our fertility journey a priority. We’re really happy being here right now. The longer we’ve been here, the more it just feels natural.”

Related: Real Estate Agents Across Canada Share Their 2024 Predictions

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A Big P.R. Problem

Kinga adds that people can be hard on themselves, particularly if they see others in Canada going out on their own and achieving stereotypical housing “success.” But at the end of the day, the Western idea of each nuclear family having a home isn’t a global concept, and there are many benefits to multigenerational living.

“For some reason, if you’re not living on your own, it’s sometimes seen as a deficiency in your ability or character rather than what you are, which is a contributing member within a household,” she says. “This was not the way humans evolved to live. It’s very new. It’s tough, and it’s tough for a reason.”

Related: How the Bank of Canada Interest Will Affect Home Buyers in 2024

How to Make Multigenerational Living Work

If you’re considering multigenerational living, the main piece of advice from those who are doing it is to remember to communicate. Talk openly about expectations, from financial contributions to household tasks, and set clear boundaries surrounding who will do what.

If there are children involved, it can be easy for a grandparent to overstep (they raised their own children, after all!), so having a conversation surrounding parenting expectations is also key.

Most importantly, do what works for you and your own situation rather than listening to how others believe it should be.

“Make up your minds for yourselves about what works and what’s important, and what your values are versus what society is telling you that you need in order to be successful or independent,” Kinga adds.

“Figure out what everybody in your situation needs in order to feel safe, like they belong, and that they’re a contributing part of the family.”



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