#biggest loser or # winwin
Many years ago when I was a single parent living in a small home, the economy and other unfavorable financial situations made it necessary for my mother to move in with my 13 year old son and I. The house was small, there was very little privacy, and none of us were really happy with the situation. More and more as a result of economic pressure in the way of job loss, rising taxes and the rising cost of living, people are finding it difficult to live independently.
You can work toward being the most frugal person in the world but the rising cost of living points to a future wherein it may not be possible for two working people to sustain one household. It is becoming increasingly difficult for two full time income earners to pay a mortgage, utilities, food and childcare. The best crafted budget in the world can only withstand so much belt tightening. In order to cope with the increased expenses and/or reduction in income, people are left with having to find more creative means of meeting their needs. Either you need to bring in more money or you need to cut expenses in other areas to get by, but at some point you can’t work any more and you can’t cut any more. I see a day wherein there is a melding of the nuclear family and the the joint family living arrangement common to many south Asian cultures. In the traditional North American culture of the nuclear family living arrangement is it possible for two or more families to cohabit in one dwelling in order to prosper financially?
Granted, it is a suggestion that may be met with considerable resistance withinin the mainstream North American culture but with our culture becoming increasing ethnically diverse, it bears consideration, albeit in a modified form.
The culture in North America embraces a lifestyle wherein children are expected to move away from their parents home to go forward and create their own households. Traditionally we embrace the tradition of the nuclear family. The drawbacks to the nuclear family model include maintaining large houses for relatively small famlilies, having children and then paying large sums of money for someone else to care for them while we work, and eventually paying for the care of our aging parents. We tend look negatively upon adults still living at home. Situatations wherein families, due to varying circumstances, have to move back in with parents require apologetic explanations such as “Oh yes, Jack and Jill are a little down on their luck due to the economy so we are doing what we can to help them out, and once things get better they will certainly get a place of their own.”
Other cultures, notably the East Indian culture embrace the joint family arrangement. A joint family arrangement consists of several family members spanning several generations living in one home and contributing jointly to the economy of that household. It allows for money from several contributers to flow into the home, thereby dividing the cost and the work of running the household. Childcare may be carried out by senior members of the household and elderly members are cared for by younger members. There are more people contributing financially to the household so it increases the number of financial “eggs in the basket”. The article below provides an in depth look at what life in a traditional joint family looks like.
It is pretty doubful that people that are familiar with life within the nuclear family could see themselves in this type of living situation. The economic benefits are well spelled out in this article, but so are the negative aspects. People that have been raised in a joint family situation and have the expectation that they will carry on living in that tradition don’t necessarily have any other frame of reference to compare it to, although it is inevitable that some members of these families may be attracted to the nuclear arrangement.
Despite the economic advantages of a joint family setup it is so different than the traditional nuclear family that it would be a tough sell in to those that know nothing outside of the nuclear family. It is challenging to define a housing model that make the melding of the traditional nuclear family with the joint family more palatable to a privacy and independence loving population. It requires an ideological shift by the people affected by the change and by municipalities in terms of neighborhood planning. There needs to be housing that provides something more expansive than the single family home with a nanny suite, something that offers the ability for several families to live in one dwelling with enough common area and enough privacy for family members.
If we were to rethink how we could comfortably accommodate several families in one home, what could that home potentially look like? My brainstorming of what might consititue something that might be a starting point to an acceptable form of joint family housing suitable to those only familiar with the nuclear family led to a housing model that is based on a retirement lodge. If you are unfamiliar, the basic setup is like this: each resident has a suite equipped with a private living area, and a bathroom. The more expensive lodges may also have a full bedroom, a living room, a private bath and a full or partial kitchen area. In all of these lodges there are shared common areas such as a kitchen that prepares food for the entire population and a dining hall that can be used by all lodge members. There are also shared common areas where people can gather to socialize, watch TV or hang out. It provides a large number of people shared housing and privacy at the same time. This is a macro level example, but I can see a micro level, more suitable to a family living situation, based upon this type of model.
Eventually, with the diversity of the population and changing economic needs I see it as inevitable that municipalities will have to come on board to recognize the benefits of multifamily dwellings. How do you build larger dwellings without compromising other services that cannot be placed on that land? How is parking impacted by family dwellings with several vehicles?
But the toughest sell will be to the population that is increasingly finding its family members forced to live together for longer periods of time in order to survive economically. We need to find a way of combining the joint family living arrangement with the nuclear family in such a way that it promotes acceptance by those entering into and and by the municipalities that they live in. Unless of course jobs are created for all, taxes and levies and delivery fees for services are permanently reduced, and the cost of all goods and services goes down and stays down. The odds are not in your favor if you are betting on that to happen.