If I could write an ad for boomers and seniors that want to downsize into affordable housing within their own communities, I found a good basis for the description from a builder/developer in Garden City, Kansas.

“…WANTED..the demand for one-level patio homes, duplexes and townhomes is somewhat formidable,” …. “We have requests all the time for places with few or no stairs, one or two bedrooms with office space, and even three bedroom homes that would allow for, say two sisters or good friends, or a parent and an older adult child to share. The key is an open concept kitchen and living room, a safe place that can double as storage or a pantry, and floor covering choices that will accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. It’s all about aging in place.”

The truth is evident, many retirees/empty nesters are staying in their original homes because they can not sell their homes and buy what they want and still remain in their neighborhood. The challenge and adventure of uprooting and transplanting yourself at an advancing age is not for everyone. There are many names for what people want – patio homes, secondary suites, duplexes with elevator to second level (?), granny pads, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), and of course the over used term ‘tiny homes’.  They all would allow for having less space but a safer, more comfortable way to stay independent as long as you can. 

The demand is definitely there but the supply is far behind.  The cost factor will always be thwarted by developers who need to build five bedroom/four bath houses or stacked townhouses with steep stairs to get a profitable return on their investment. What they are ignoring is the demographic shift that has only 20 % of households being that nuclear family, and more than 30% of people living alone.  

Tomorrow I will be visiting the Making Room exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C.  They are featuring  a 1000 square foot home with movable walls designed to have the potential to span the years from being a multi generational family to life as an empty nester.  I will be seeing it in the multi-generational configuration.  From June  to the end of the exhibit in September, it will be arranged as the empty nester studio suite with rental potential for the remainder of the space.  I am going with many questions. There is no price tag at this point, merely a concept. But at least we have that.

For a virtual trip to the Making Room: Housing for a Changing America exhibit at the National Building Museum, please view several videos on this web-page: https://www.nbm.org/exhibition/making-room/