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Single-family homes are in a number of cases no longer that

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POSTED June 14, 2013 3:37 p.m.

Think American Dream and images of owning a single-family home pop up.

But in a growing number of households it is more like a multi-generation family home.

The Great Recession triggered a 15 percent increase of three generations living under one roof between 2008 and 2010 when the numbers went from 3.8 million such households in 2008 to 4.4 million in 2010.

Back in 2000 the Census reflected 4.2 million such households. Of those, 65 percent of the homes involved were owned by grandparents with their children and grandchildren living with them. The rest were grandparents living with their children who owned the homes.

When you toss in parents who have their full-grown children living with them or non-related families or individuals living together under the same roof and single-family homes is a growing misnomer.

Twelve years ago, the trend started accelerating in Manteca and Lathrop especially when it involved McMansions.

Lathrop city staff at one point couldn’t understand why they were using more sewer capacity based on the number of dwellings. That’s when they did door-to-door checks and found out there were often two and sometimes three or four families that had bought a home together.

In Manteca, the council would occasionally get complaints about more than one family or a group of individuals living in a “single family home”. Again, McMansions were the biggest complaint.

Federal law makes it clear you can’t discriminate by either government or sellers limiting home occupancy to one family.

Such points often fell on deaf ears when those complaining about excess cars, foot traffic and people at a home next door or across the street are exasperated because they are living in a “single family home neighborhood.”

It is clear planning for communities has to change.

First, call them “single family homes” what they are - detached residences.

And more important cities should no longer assume if they build five traditional “single family homes” per acre that it typically translates into set a amount of impact on sewer, water, other municipal services, and schools.

Just one extra family per every five “single family homes” built would accelerate sewer and water use by upwards of 20 percent.

That said the hottest new housing trend to come out of the Great Recession is generational homes. They involve creating a separate master suite - complete with separate living area and kitchenette - that has access from the outside as well as through interior doors.

In Manteca, Oakwood Lake Shores and Atherton Homes’ Union Ranch have the highest concentration of generational homes among new developments.

Reality is changing.

So should planning terminology and assumptions.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail

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