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Three generations at home is company

Sharing a home with her parents has financial benefits, but the main advantages for Nancy Snider are intangible: higher quality of life and the knowledge that her bedridden father, Robert Cochrane, is receiving good care.

“We didn’t think it all the way through. It just sort of evolved,” said Snider, 61, of McCandless.

Her brother, Duncan, and her daughter, Jayla, 7, also live in the home.

About 5 million households in Pennsylvania had three or more generations living under the same roof in 2010, according to Census Bureau figures released today. That’s a 5 percent increase from 2000.

Nationally, the state ranked 27th in percentage of multigenerational households at 3.1 percent of total households in 2000. The rate was 3.5 percent in 2010, though a 2010 national ranking isn’t yet available. The Census Bureau has released figures for seven states, including Pennsylvania, and plans to release data for the other states over the next month.

The 2010 Census found 16,215 multigenerational households in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties, giving Western Pennsylvania a rate of 2.5 percent. It is unclear if that is a change, because the 2000 Census didn’t provide comparable numbers.

Snider, an agent for Coldwell Banker, said she handles more people seeking homes that can house their parents as well as their children. National studies have pointed to families combining households to save money, but the people Snider talks with are more concerned about keeping their loved ones out of nursing homes, she said.

“I think it’s more for the care of them than it is financial reasons,” she said.

Deborah Kane, an agent with Howard Hanna Real Estate, said tight finances can lead to extended families sharing a home, creating a growing demand for housing that can accommodate multiple generations.

One of her clients, a family with three generations, is living in one house while one parent looks for a new job, Kane said. Another client decided to sell her home and move her family into her mother’s house because it would be easier to care for her mother, she said.

Jeff Passel, a senior demographer with the Pew Hispanic Center, which released a report on the trend last year, said households become multigenerational for several reasons. In 2000, the main trend was adult children moving in with their parents, not the other way around.

“I wish we knew more about the actual dynamics involved,” he said.

Marilyn Cochrane, Snider’s mother, said the arrangement works well for all of them. Snider can look after her father if her mother needs to go somewhere. And if Snider needs to go somewhere, her mother can watch Jayla.

“We tag-team a lot,” Cochrane said.

Cochrane, a former real estate agent from Indianapolis, said homes with extra rooms for parents weren’t a big seller when she retired about five years ago, but she’s not surprised they are a hot commodity in the Pittsburgh area.

“I think this is a very family-oriented area. The families are closer,” she said.

Snider said an increasing number of people seem to be looking for homes with an “in-law suite,” or a separate apartment with a kitchen.

“That’s a big seller. If a house has an in-law suite, it goes real fast,” she said.


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