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Single-family neighborhoods are no longer composed of single families
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One of the hottest new home floor plans in Manteca today isn’t the McMansion.

You could argue that it isn’t even a single-family home.

And you can credit it to both the housing bubble that burst in 2006 as well as The Great Recession.

The trend is deliberately accommodating multiple families under one roof.

We’re not talking duplexes but what once was correctly called single-family homes.

The floor plan sets up a separate living area complete with a bedroom suite, bathroom, kitchen area, and living room that has its own outside entrance - usually off a shared courtyard - plus has a connecting door to the rest of the home.

In the two developments where the trend is taking off - Union Ranch in north Manteca and Oakwood Shores in southwest Manteca - you would be hard pressed to pick them out from the street.

This is not simply a Manteca thing.

The Pew Research Center shows:

•one out of every five college graduates ages 25 to 34 are living with his or her parents.

•the number of shared households where an adult not enrolled in school living with another adult who isn’t a spouse jumped 11.4 percent between 2007 and 2011 from 19.7 million to 22 million households.

•during the same period households in the United States grew by 1.3 percent meaning multiple family households went up 10 fold compared to the post World War II American tradition of single-family households.

The pioneer in Manteca for such a concept was Raymus Development when they built Chadwick Square in northwest Manteca during the late 1990s.

They had to be called “in-law” quarters as zoning laws simply don’t allow two families in single-family homes. Even so, it ran into a lot of stiff opposition surprisingly from city planners more so than potential neighbors.

Planners were concerned about a proliferation of vehicles, disruptive noise, and the integrity of the neighborhood. The handful of homes designed with separate living quarters under the same roof that were built and sold were restricted to just in-laws and not non-related folks.

Then during the super heated housing market a number of homes - especially McMansions in Manteca and Lathrop - sold to multiple families not as an investment but as a place they could live.

Manteca discovered the trend while fielding complaints from neighbors about new 4,500-square-foot homes with as many as four different families with good number of children and cars. When neighbors complained to the city about multiple families living in “single-family homes” bureaucrats consulted lawyers who noted there wasn’t much the city could do especially if those living there were part of families with names on the deed.  

That’s because federal discrimination laws by then banned restricting how many people could buy a house and by default live in it to at least a responsible degree. It had also become illegal to advertise a single-family home by calling it a single-family home whether it is for rent or sale.

Lathrop became aware of the trend and how evasive it was in 2005. The city couldn’t understand why sewer flows were way above the prescribed formula based on housing units and specific types such as homes, duplexes, and apartments.

A city door-to-door survey found a stunning number of instances of two or more families who had bought and were living in new homes in the Mossdale Landing neighborhoods.

There is a lesson here that extends beyond just hard economic times.

The high cost of housing - relative to both a booming market as well as a bad economy - shows what is being built in the South County is not all that affordable.

There is also a third lesson that can be gleaned not from what cities have actually built but overall trends. Either out of necessity or by design, people are starting to move away in small but growing numbers from the standard for America housing for the last 60 years - a free-standing “single” family housing unit.

It is time for cities - especially here in ground zero for the foreclosure mess caused by overheated housing demand in conjunction with the bubble bust and recession - to think differently. That means more apartments and such but it also means rethinking the traditional free-standing single-family home.