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A solution to the housing crisis: add another kitchen!

In today’s real estate crisis, big new houses just don’t sell. They are too big to pay when mortgage money is tight. Existing homes are selling for below their original purchase price, reducing owner’s equity. People cannot justify paying the mortgage or selling houses that are worth less than the mortgage. Adjustments must be made to find a way to make these houses more affordable.

The costs of food, gasoline and education have skyrocketed. Investments and retirement income are shrinking. Labor markets have tightened. And the savings are nonexistent. What do companies and families do? They need to rethink their lives and identify the needs to survive and the strategies to move forward.

When the standards we live by are failing, we must become more resilient than ever. One method that is being considered by many families is to consolidate their resources

combining homes. The ‘Sandwich Generation’ has opened their homes to returning (boomerang) children as well as their own parents. Recent studies have shown that 65% of all college graduates return home, at one point or another. 3.4 million older people live in their children’s homes. And these trends are on the rise!

Until just 100 years ago, multigenerational living was the norm. Extended families lived and worked together on farms and started small businesses together. Yet many articles have been written about the monetary advantages and social dangers of modern families living together after being autonomous for so long. It seems that the most important condition for success is a clear understanding of the monetary responsibilities of household members. Secondly, it is necessary to establish areas of coexistence that respect the autonomy of the different members.

Many houses only have enough space to offer new occupants a bedroom of their own. A bedroom and a private bathroom is a better solution, especially in a household with small children. Converting the garage, attic over the garage, basement or 2 bedrooms into a studio is one of the most successful arrangements. In new construction, the double master suite arrangement is excellent for multi-generational living and can also be sold as a home that can be shared by two single-parent families.

Shared cooking and dining experiences can be a wonderful enhancement to the lives of everyone involved. Or they can turn into a nightmare. Mealtime has become very difficult to schedule for many families on the go, and scheduling can be even more difficult for two families living together. A great solution is to provide a small food preparation area outside of the traditional kitchen. It can be as simple as a breakfast/snack center or it can be a fully equipped mini-kitchen that can offer complete autonomy. It can be located in a private living room or in an area shared by the whole family. Having the option to choose when and what to eat can relieve a lot of stress in an extended household.

Existing or new homes that can be designed with completely separate dwelling units can have lasting value. A self-contained apartment can provide a place for older homeowners to live while renting out the main house for income. Hosting a guest can make the investment of building a studio a good solution for everyone. Some senior homeowners may even subsidize renting the apartment to a guest who can act as caretaker for the entire property.

Tourist condominiums have used flexible design solutions quite successfully for years. Typically, a typical two-bedroom apartment is divided into a full one-bedroom apartment and a studio apartment that includes a kitchenette and separate bathroom. Any of the units can be rented separately or combined at any time.

However, in many localities, zoning prohibits a second dwelling unit or even a second kitchen. Increasingly, many localities have changed their zoning to allow auxiliary dwellings, largely due to the research efforts of the American Association of Retired Persons which created a model for legislating Accessory Dwelling Units in local ordinances.

Once the zoning problem is overcome, there are many design solutions that can provide a secondary kitchen. If space is not limited, standard cabinets and large appliances can be used to create a kitchen of any size. When space is limited, many companies (Google Kitchen Units) offer full kitchenettes and drop-in centers that can accommodate almost any special need. Adding small appliances to a built-in cabinet is another solution. Tiny appliance combinations that include a coffee maker, microwave, and single burner can sell for less than $50.00. Paired with a 2.7 CF refrigerator-freezer ($150.00 online), a mini kitchen doesn’t need to break the bank.

For those who want to have a kitchenette, but don’t want to see it all the time, most codes allow the cabinets to be built into a closet with bi-fold doors and any UL listed appliance can be used as long as it has a plug and is not cabling. In this way, sinks, refrigerators, portable plates, microwaves, toaster ovens, etc. and all the countertop clutter can be hidden from view.

Another company makes special UL-listed furniture in the form of cabinets that allow more powerful, hard-wired built-in appliances and everything else to be completely concealed when not in use. The cabinet and furniture idea is great for smaller rooms that have many functions, only one of which is a kitchen.

More versatile design solutions like the ones mentioned here can help homes retain their value in any market. As the demographics of our families change, the call for flexibility in the design of our homes becomes more important. The secondary kitchen is just one of the ideas that can make a real difference.

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