SHTF Housing Solution – Multigenerational

One of my favorite writers is fond of saying that SHTF will more likely take the form of your brother-in-law sleeping on the couch than raving zombie mobs stealing your food.  In many countries multigenerational housing is the norm as citizens try to combat poverty and lack of infrastructure.  Three or more generations living together can be beneficial for all involved, especially when help is needed for child or elder care. The secret is getting out, (and the economy is getting worse) and there are now some 21.8 million Americans (greater than 16%) living in such households around the country.

The financial and emotional benefits of living together – not only do you save money by having a joined household, but you save on stress, time and other resources by having in-home day care. (Remember, day care can be for children or for elders or both.) The Pew Research Center reported that the poverty rate among those who live in multi-generational homes was 11.5% in 2009, compared to 14.6% for those who didn’t live with other adults other than their spouse or partner. The emotional bonds are priceless. The young and the old gain so much comfort by being around one another.  I read somewhere that a child with a living grandma can be expected to have better quality and quantity of food as they grow up.

Privacy – it is important to lay out ground rules and discuss expectations about privacy. Put these things in writing at the beginning.  NOTHING in my experience breaks up a happy homestead quicker than people thinking their privacy is being trampled.

Designing or remodeling your home to accommodate adult children or elderly parents? Put those guest bedrooms to work; go from a 2 car garage to a 1 car garage and turn that space into a mom-in-law suite.  Think you can’t possibly find space for another family? I’ve seen 3 bedroom houses with 3 families in them; 2 kids, 5 adults, 1 bathroom. External storage, whether it’s a shed or a rental-storage can help keep duplicate furniture from cluttering up space.

Financial and legal planning – Some cities have zoning laws about how many unrelated people can live in one house.  There may even be laws out there about how many people per room you can have.  Be sure to check into YOUR city’s laws.

Are you prepared for another generation to join your living arrangement?


Sorry for the short post, the Calamity family is exhausted.  Y’all might find it interesting, and it kinda ties in with today’s post on housing,  so here’s the scoop.  The doomstead has a massive mold problem.  For those that don’t know/can’t remember, the doomstead is a concrete bermed house. The subfloor heating system should look like this:

We did tubing like this, stapled to spacing 1x1s and used sand around the tubes for thermal mass.

But instead looks more like this:

These were coming up through the floor boards.

Except grosser.

So, we are tearing out floorboards and building a shed to hold furniture. We’ll probably have to clear it all the way to the concrete and start over.  We haven’t got enough torn apart to figure out where all the water is coming from and how much of the subfloor has been compromised. That picture will hopefully emerge as we progress through this summer.

Luckily, work and family arrangements are such that there’s only a couple of people living there part time.  So, exposure to anything is limited. But, we need to get to the bottom of it and get it solved or no one will be able to live there.

Nobody said it would be easy. :-P

– Calamity Jane


18 comments… add one
  • irishdutchuncle June 19, 2012, 10:58 am

    if i ever get a retreat property, i’d like to be able to accomodate three or four generations of my family. (my son, nieces and nephews need to get busy and start producing a fourth generation) you’d need to have a farm or a small hotel to keep them all…

    • irishdutchuncle June 20, 2012, 10:57 am

      …and as to your fungus problem:

      maybe you should sterilize the place, and replace what you have with some gourmet varieties. use the proceeds of their sale to finance a better doomstead.

  • JL June 19, 2012, 1:30 pm

    We could live with or have some family live with us. We already have had people some family and some not live with us. Ground rules are a must! Everyone helps cook, clean, and take care of kids. I could not have my grandparents or most of husbands family live with us. They cannot handle the kids. My parents would be welcome by both of us.
    I really hope you find the water problem and it gets fixed soon. We have dealt with water problems before. What a pain.

  • Mike June 19, 2012, 2:49 pm

    Good point. I’m a very private person and value living alone – but if I expect to survive SHTF I should learn how to live with people on a long term basis. Good post.

  • Charles June 19, 2012, 6:22 pm

    EWEEEEE, my inlaws and outlaws are grotesque, selfish, opinionated, and hard-headed, they show up and I pull the lever at the gate that swallows them up, I and wifey have lovingly talked with these rascal’s forever about trying to prep some, the pat answer is the “G” would never let that happen and the “G” will take care of us…. a noble thought to take others in, we could accept strangers easier then knowing the re-arrangers will show up and have an answer for everythingggggggggggggggggg……

  • KC June 19, 2012, 9:10 pm


    While I agree with the idea of a multigenerational living arrangement in principle, I don’t agree with exactly the model illustrated. In my experience, I would absolutely adore the prospect of having both sets of grandparents live with me and my kids, since they lived through the Great Depression 1 and did it without the government handouts, like the “New Deal.” It’s with great lamentation that both sets have passed on and so while I have my parents (they are “boomers” and don’t believe that their precious 20th century “Homo-Colossus” lifestyle would ever diminish let alone utterly give up the ghost) however I have friends that lived through the last portion of the Great Depression 1, so I’ve already invited them to share in the community, they know it’s coming. Also I’ve found that some of my children are gung-ho about such an arrangement, but others are just like my parents. Here’s hoping that the grandchildren will be accepting of such an arrangement without their frustration of mine and my parent’s generation taking a giant dump on the planet, and utterly using up the world’s one-time endowment of petro-chemical wealth, along with all the nifty non-ferrous super-conductive metals which we turned into swiftly junked personal electronics and overpriced personal conveyances. Sorry about the environmental rant, however when you read Kunstler’s “Witch of Hebron” and Butler’s “Parable of the Sower/Talents” you get to feel a little bitter about excess of the “Boomer” generation.

  • Michael June 19, 2012, 9:54 pm

    Thought I’d pass this along to my favorite disaster minded peeps.

    Cargo bikes reach new heights at ‘Disaster Relief Trials’
    Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 18th, 2012 at 11:40 am

    The mock disaster scenario (a major earthquake) that the event was based on gave emergency responders and cargo bike enthusiasts a lot to think about. Disaster preparedness volunteers with the City’s Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NET) and the County’s Amateur Radio Emergency Service learned how to relay messages during a crisis, cargo bike builders learned how their designs performed under a variety of challenging, real-world conditions, and cargo bike operators learned how to push through the limits of pedal power.

  • Carolyn June 20, 2012, 10:23 am

    This is an interesting post, because in just a month, our family of 5 is moving in with my parents. for a number of valid reasons. We’ll be getting out of debt so we can start putting our own money aside to buy land of our own. They are getting up in age, and their health is declining, and now it’s my turn to help take care of them since they invested all those years in me. I’d like to get my kids out of a neighborhood where drug-users far, far outnumber those non-users. My folks need some monetary help, and with what we’ve all worked out financially, we’ll all be gaining. A side benefit to this that we’ve not mentioned to them, as they aren’t prep-minded, is that we won’t have to worry about them or us when the effluent hits the fan blades. It’ll be great to have my boys grow up knowing there is a life beyond buses, grocery stores and Nintendo. We’re all looking forward to it. I remember families that lived down the street from us in Toronto, they had 3 or 4 generations all living under 1 roof, and I remember thinking then that they must all love each other very much to share 1 bathroom.
    And that’s my biggest worry with our new situation. 7 people, 1 bathroom.
    I’d better go research outhouses.

    • irishdutchuncle June 20, 2012, 9:22 pm

      it may come to outhouses, but look into: “saniflo” first.
      acording to them, you can place a full bathroom almost anywhere this system.

      • Carolyn June 25, 2012, 1:22 am

        Thanks for the heads up!

        • irishdutchuncle June 25, 2012, 4:51 pm

          hope it helps.

          (besides, a downstairs bathroom costs less to put in than an elevator)

  • Greatgeezer June 20, 2012, 10:55 am

    It works for us. I live in a multigenerational setup and everyone benefits. It is mostly a matter of removing your head from your a**. Privacy is not a problem, especially in a rural setting. Cooking, cleaning, hygiene, chores, and finances, are all laid out. Finances is the only flexible one here, with everyone generally contributing more than required and thereby creating a surplus of supplies. This pretty much ensures a peace of mind for everyone. The trick is to choose the members well. Hard choices have to be made sometimes, with some family welcomed and others not. This is to ensure the beneficial atmosphere being maintained. Yes, sometimes one or another will require more than others, (such as during sickness, etc.) but that is understood from the beginning, and accepted as part of the deal. In short, good planning makes for good conditions.

  • T.R. June 20, 2012, 6:57 pm

    That was how we were up until the 1920’s . Because of the economy , we are already seeing a return of this . Unless things get better , the trend is going to continue .

  • studmuffin June 21, 2012, 1:04 am

    I see more and more people walking and (adults even) riding bikes. This in suburbia, no less.

  • izzy June 21, 2012, 1:20 am

    (looking very Wonderland there… this is why I won’t allow shitake farming in the house, lol. I know next to nothing about in-floor heating – but on TV I see the tubes laid in concrete? )

    Than ks for bringing this up. I envy families who are matter-of-fact about living under one roof. During the LAST recession I was one of the ‘stay-in-the-nesters’ – partly because of the dismal market, but also because of my mother’s poor medical health. Surprise surprise, my parents found it easier to tell people I couldn’t hack it, rather than admit I was helping them. (Meanwhile, I chafed at being treated like a child after a long day at work.)

    But I still think intergenerational housing makes sense (so long as it is anticipated and rearranged for), along with a certain amount of nepotism. I think middle-class Americans have been sold a bill of goods for too long. Americans are told to spend tens of thousands of $$ to outside institutions for the “advantage” of a college diploma – money that could’ve been invested, to help their child learn a business or even start their own, if they didn’t try real life or continue a family business. Then Americans are told to disown their offspring just when they’re establishing their future – told to buy another set of pots & pans, another set of cheap furniture, work to maintain another car and another house,. Then they’re told to stay away from home, working overtime, so that they can hire a stranger to watch the child or fix the house and car – turning our neighborhoods into ghost towns already.

    Meanwhile the billionaires have no problem with making sure their kid gets the best, trading ‘charitable’ donations for special exemptions for their kids, setting up trust funds for them, buying Mercedes or mansions for them, and arranging a cushy ‘entry-level’ job high up at their friends’ corporations – while they tell ordinary Americans to “cut the cord!” , telling us to make our offspring start from scratch,and to buy a separate slice of the ‘American Dream’ on credit, buying double or triple of everything to make it look like we still have a productive economy.

    Past generations – and people overseas – ALWAYS pooled their resources. They knew that if they didn’t, they’d lose the race for survival. But they plan for it – they added onto the house, put another place in the back 40, planned finances together, stepped aside to make more room for the generation.

    • T.R. July 5, 2012, 8:17 pm

      If you look at all the old houses back east from the 1800s , they were for the most part , very big , as multigenerational living was a way of life back then .

  • Sugel June 21, 2012, 1:21 am

    Medicare does not pay for assisted living. About 75% of all costs are paid by residents out of personal funds or family assistance. SSI (supplemental security income) pays for 14% and 2% is covered by long-term care insurance. It should also be noted that the majority of SSI payments for assisted living are for specialized units for mentally retarded and developmentally disabled individuals. These units are maintained and staffed on behalf of state welfare programs. These would not be your typical apartment style assisted living complexes. This means that for the general public–excluding those on SSI welfare payments–more than 90% of the cost of assisted living is paid by individuals or families out of pocket.

  • Ray June 21, 2012, 7:37 am

    Being from rural eastern Ky, I can tell ya’ll that this WORKS. BUT you must WANT it to work. My family farm has my Granny(96) Mom(78) both my brothers (52 and 49) and one first cousin living /working there.There are also the “kids” who come and “help” Dad & granny / great granny. The Amish say ” many hands make light work” and it’s true. That and the fact that we’er related by blood or marrage to 60 or 70% of the familys within 10 miles, Makes survival simpler ( my family has been in there current “holler” for over 200 years) Your results may varry with the number of family Ya’ll have/can stand. — Ray in Ky


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