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“Family” Definitions & Shared Housing

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Low-density residential zoning has supported the "American dream" of each family having its own home. It sets aside parcels of land, safe from industrial or commercial competition, so that families can afford to build those homes. In so doing, however, many zoning ordinances contain a definition of what is considered the typical "family." These "family" definitions, often written fifteen or twenty years ago, can have major impacts on housing options. One unfortunate result -- which this article will focus on -- is that "shared" housing for older residents is frequently precluded.

Not long ago it was fairly common for older people to live together with their adult children and their grandchildren in extended families. As a result of a number of factors, the extended family living arrangement is no longer common. We now have relatively smaller single family homes, a far more mobile labor force, and increased financial independence for our elders in part due to Social Security and private pension plans. ...

Although senior citizen housing and retirement communities have been successful and popular, they simply are not available for many older Americans. ...

Shared housing is one of a number of innovative uses communities across the country are considering to make efficient use of the existing housing stock. A shared home can be either a "match-up" arrangement or a "shared residence." Along with accessory apartments and elder cottages, the primary impetus for considering these options comes from the increasing need for community-based housing for older residents. ...

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