Multi-generational housing is defined by AARP as three generations living under one roof. The organization’s website shows that 51 million Americans live in multi-generational homes. This has created new buzz words – Multi Gen and Next Gen. We’re witnessing times, whether spurred on by health or family finances, that unite families under one roof.

Santa Fe is celebrated for its historic family-rich culture. Old city neighborhoods are defined by the generations of family compounds that evolved over time into a maze of alleyways that draw you into communal layouts reminiscent of iconic European towns. Since Santa Fe’s inception – witness the Eastside properties – homes started modestly and rooms and separate dwellings were added as the family expanded, to become family compounds.

To quote from the book Together again: A Creative Guide to Successful Multi-Generational Living by Sharon Graham Niederhaus and John Graham: “Giving everyone access to both private and shared spaces is the cornerstone of harmonious family life, but purchasing a bigger house, building an extra unit or even modifying a home can be expensive and difficult. Zoning laws and municipal codes often prohibit accessory units, or 'granny flats.'” Graham and Niederhaus predict that more municipalities will follow the lead of Seattle, Santa Cruz, and Portland, Oregon, which have streamlined the permit process to encourage multi-generational housing. “We need to make it easier for people to establish these kinds of households because it’s a key issue of our time,” Graham said."

Modern opportunities for multi-generational housing include the re-envisioning of larger estate homes to creating floor plans conducive to family gatherings, with separate areas delineated for use as a vacation home or investment property. The uses are multi-faceted: aging in place with guest quarters and caretaker set-up; extended periods of time where several generations co-habit under the same roof or in the same compound/estate; and flexible use for vacation celebrations.

This is also the one of the oldest forms of estate planning, creating a family legacy for generations to come. As homes are passed down, small details can be found as a tribute to earlier generations: a mural, 1950s wallpaper at the back of a cupboard; we leave it to you to add to the list of memories.

For ideas and inspiration, check out this resource: Advocacy Group – Generations United at

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