Multi-generational living – a way to beat the cost of housing?

November 13, 2023

We’ve all seen how expensive housing – either through home ownership or renting – has become in 2023.

Are we going to head back to the good old days, when two, three or more generations lived under the same roof to share the costs of housing? Save with SPP took a look around to see if multi-generational living is a thing.

Turns out, it is!

According to the Vanier Institute, data from the Canadian census show that multi-generational households “have become the fastest-growing census family household type in recent decades.” As of the 2021 census, the article continues, “there were nearly 442,000 multi-generational households in Canada,” and while this accounts for only 2.9 per cent of the total households, it represents “2.4 million people, or 6.4 per cent of the total population.”

As well, the Institute notes, “multigenerational households have increased in number by 50 per cent since 2001.” Additionally, in 2021 “nine per cent of children aged 14 and under (571,000) lived with at least one grandparent, up from 3.3 per cent in 2001.”

The article cites a number of factors for this increase. First, there’s the fact that the population is aging, and life expectancy is rising. “Population aging intersects with other trends such as intergenerational care needs, rising housing costs, and growing population of groups more likely to share a roof with younger generations, contributing to the growth in multigenerational households.”

So what is it like when two or more generations share the same dwelling?

Writing in The Globe and Mail Ben Mussett cites the example of Vancouver’s Stephen Reid.

“Every morning, before his three-year-old granddaughter heads to daycare, Stephen Reid is waiting at the bottom of the stairs to wish her a good day. Unlike many grandparents, Mr. Reid hasn’t had to forgo seeing his only grandchild during the pandemic. In fact, he’s spent time with her nearly every day of her life,” writes Mussett.

“This is possible because Mr. Reid and his wife, Melanie, have lived with their daughter Michelle Cyca and her family for the past three years in Vancouver. Their living arrangement allows the Reids to provide child care in a pinch. Likewise, Ms. Cyca and her husband have been there for her 71-year-old parents, who both deal with chronic health and mobility issues,” he notes.

So, three generations, one house, and they are all looking after each other. Nice!

Over at the National Post we learn about Ottawa’s Yi Jiang.

“About a year after Yi Jiang and her family moved to Ottawa from China, they found themselves sharing a two-bedroom apartment with her parents,” the article notes.

“After living together in Shenzhen, it seemed only natural that once the entire family was in Canada, her parents would live with her, her husband and their young son, she said. The couple has since had another child, and last year all six moved to a house in the suburbs,” the Post reports.

“It’s very important for me to live with them … they are the most important people in my life and I am the only child,” Jiang, a producer for a Mandarin radio show, tells the Post.

The article goes on to note that multi-generational living is a new trend that has roots in long-ago times.

“Right now, the proportion of multigenerational households is high, relative to recent history, but if you go back pre-war, most households were multigenerational; somebody always took in Mom or Dad,” Nora Spinks of the Vanier Institute tells the Post.

“It was only through that weird blip post-war 1950s, 1960s where every generation had their own household, and you moved out at 18 or 19, and you got your own apartment and you never returned home and everybody had their own toaster and everybody had their own everything,” she states in the article.

There is also some hope that multi-generational housing can be part of the solution to the general housing shortage crisis, the CBC reports.

Recently, the article notes, the federal government “introduced a tax credit for families looking to renovate their homes and accommodate more people,” the broadcaster reports.

“It provides a one-time 15 per cent tax refund for renovation costs up to $50,000 for a secondary unit with a private entrance, kitchen, and bathroom,” the CBC reports, adding “to be eligible, the resident of the renovated unit must be a family member who is a senior or an adult with a disability.” The maximum refund amount is $7,500, the article notes.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues during this odd period of high rents and high mortgage rates.

Whether you retire on your own, or as a couple, or with your folks in one room and the kids in another, you’ll need money to cover expenses, even if they are shared. If you are fortunate enough to have a retirement program at work, be sure to join it and participate to the max. If you don’t have a program, or want to augment the one you have, take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

With SPP, you decide how much you want to contribute – your contributions are tax-deductible. SPP then does the heavy lifting of investing your savings in a low-cost, professionally managed, pooled fund. When it’s time to call it a day for good at the office, SPP will help your turn those savings into retirement income, with the option of you receiving a lifetime monthly annuity payment in respect of some or all of your savings.

Great news! SPP’s flexible Variable Benefit option is no longer limited to those members living within the borders of Saskatchewan. Now all retiring SPP members across the country can take advantage of this provision, which puts you in control of how much income you want to withdraw, and when you want to withdraw it. You can also transfer in additional savings from other unlocked registered sources. For full details see

Check out SPP today!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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