A national home builder will be the first in Pierce County to incorporate a single-family home designed specifically for multiple generations under one roof.
Lennar, one of the country's largest home builders, will officially open Brink Ranch in Spanaway later this month. The 146-lot community off 22nd Avenue East, just west of Frederickson, will have about 20 percent of its homes built in the "Next Gen" layout. Its defining feature is a fully functional private suite incorporated into the main floor of the home whose presence is invisible from the outside. Nine homes are being built now, two of them "Next Gen."
"I'm not aware of anyone else who is doing it," Tiffany Speir, executive officer of the trade group Master Builders Association of Pierce County, said Friday. "I wish them the best. I hope it does become more prevalent."
Lennar began using the expanded floor-plan several years ago in other parts of the country. In the South Puget Sound region, it also will be available at Tehaleh, the master-planned community near Bonney Lake; Deschutes River II in Olympia; and Harbor Hill in Gig Harbor.
For now, only one "Next Gen" floor plan is available in Washington because the building lots here are smaller and less flat than in other parts of the country, said Julie Kelly, marketing director for Lennar's Northwest division.
"We've incorporated the best features of all of them," she said. Lennar's only competition now seems to be older homes with a converted attic or garage space, Kelly said. "That's what makes this a unique opportunity."
The suite is not merely a second master bedroom. It's 493 square feet and has its own living room, bathroom, bedroom and kitchenette. It has an outside entrance, as well as an inside dual-locking door that opens onto the house's main living room. Based on customer desires, Lennar has added a washer/dryer and gone with a shower-only bathroom, because many older people have difficulty climbing in and out of a tub.
Attention to those details are key, said Kaye Swain, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Tacoma who specializes in multi-generational housing. People want to grow old in their homes, she said.
"It's not big things," she said. "It's the little things: Grab bars in the bathroom. Zero-step entryways. Everything on the first floor."
In Washington, 4.3 percent of all households had at least three generations represented, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. The state with the highest percentage was Hawaii, with 11.1 percent. That percentage will only grow, Swain said.
"The silver tsunami is approaching, and people are saying, I need help," she said, referring to the aging baby boomer generation. In her business, she's counseled people in their 40s and 50s who are preparing to care for aging parents.
Lennar's Kelly said that while "Next Gen" is designed for multiple generations, it doesn't have to be used that way.
"We've had people use it as the man cave, or a craft space, or for a live-in nanny," she said. "It's built for all the ways families live now."