June 5, 2023

Many chefs, one mortgage. Multi-generational homes are on the rise in Calgary | CBC News

Calgary has experienced a mini-boom in homes built specifically for multi-generational living.

Initially, they focused on the new northeastern communities of Cornerbrook and Homestead. But Trico Homes sales territory manager Akshat Mathur says demand is also growing in the southeast community of Pine Creek.

Trico is one of several builders building these new models for many localities in the city, and Mathur is even building one for himself.

“I love it,” said Mathur. “Secondary suite – it’s amazing.”

What sets multigenerational homes apart is that they either have a basement suite with a full kitchen and separate entrance, or they have a main floor bedroom and bathroom instead of a den and half bath.

Akshat Mathur, Sales Area Manager, Trico Homes. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Mathur says the average price for an 1,800-square-foot home with a main-floor bedroom and bathroom is in the mid-$500s.

Mathur says that since Trico announced plans in 2019, demand has gone from two to three sales a month to more than ten a month, almost exclusively to South Asian buyers.

Families who live in these homes say multigenerational living can be a blessing for everyone in the family — especially as inflation, rent and daycare costs make living apart more expensive.

So CBC Calgary caught up with two families who live in these houses to see how they make it work.

Back row, from left: Sajja’s mother-in-law, Usha Rani Sunkara; Sajja’s mother, Venkata Durga Lakshmi; Sajja’s father, Venkateswara Rao Sajja. Front row from left: Sajja’s husband Alok Sagar Aetukuri; Bhavya Sajja with her daughter Akshara Aetukuri; Sajja’s brother, Rakesh Sajja. (Bhavya Sajja)

Bhavya Sajj: “They kicked us out of the kitchen”

For Bhavya Sajja, a multi-generational life is more about emotional support than finances.

“It feels really good to have parents with us,” says Sajja, who moved from India to Calgary in 2018. “My mental health improved after my mother came. It’s a different kind of happiness.”

She and her husband, Alok Aetukuri, recently moved into their new four-bedroom home in northeast Calgary that was designed to accommodate multiple generations. They live with their daughter, her younger brother, her parents and her mother.

“The house is perfect,” said Aetukuri, pointing out the main floor bedroom and bathroom for his mother, who has trouble making stairs.

My mental health improved after mom came. It’s a different kind of happiness.– Bhavya Sajja

Both Sajja and her husband work full-time. They say extra helping hands relieve the stress of daily life.

Sajja says that she hasn’t had to cook since her mother and mother-in-law moved.

Neither of them will let her or her husband help.

“They kick us out of the kitchen and don’t let us do anything,” Sajja said. “We just take care of our work … I don’t have to worry about where we’re going to leave our daughter or when I’m going to cook. There’s peace of mind.”

It goes both ways. Aetukuri says it is also easier to take care of his aging parents when they live together.

“If you leave your parents at home [in India], you always think about them,” Aetukuri explained. “They’re old. No one is there to take care of them. It’s easier if they’re here. We can take care of them if anything is needed.”

Portrait of a woman
Manjot Dhillon lives with her husband, daughter, and in-laws in a purpose-built multi-generational home in northeast Calgary. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Manjot Dhillon: “I sent my daughter with them”

Manjot Dhillon trusts her in-laws so much that she once sent her then 16-month-old baby home with them to India while she and her husband worked multiple jobs in B.C.

“I sent my daughter with them … for about five months,” said Dhillon. “And even now he sleeps with them.”

That’s the bond she has with her in-laws, even though she barely knew them when they moved in two years ago.

All three generations now live in a new home in Calgary, a model with a main floor bedroom and bathroom so the grandparents don’t have to climb stairs.

“We can’t possibly leave our parents to live on their own, especially in their old age.”

And treatment goes both ways. When the second baby is coming, the in-laws have been a great support.

Brand new modern looking kitchen next to a home designed for multiple generations.
One of the home kitchens designed for multi-generational living, which is becoming more common in Calgary. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

“We help each other. Especially since my mother-in-law was really helpful with my first baby,” said Dhillon. “She was the one who cooked for us, cleaned for us and even did our laundry.”

He says living without parents is not an option in their culture.

“It is what it is,” said Dhillon, who also grew up with his grandparents. “We’re just raised that way. We have no other way of thinking.”

He says that such a close relationship means that family members also have to take time apart for themselves. He spends time watching TV. But the benefits are clear, and Dhillon recommends that those unaccustomed to multigenerational living at least consider it.

“I’d say go,” said Dhillon. “The older generation can take care of the younger generation and pass on manners, traditions, and it can also be cost-effective in terms of childcare. [And] instead of paying off two mortgages, they can just split one.”

His father-in-law Satvir Dhillon says he goes for a walk when he needs more space and performs his own faith rituals early every morning. But she can’t imagine living apart from her family, especially her granddaughter.

“He loves her more than us,” said Manjot Dhillon with a laugh.

Finding a home

CBC Calgary has a special focus on housing this fall. Prices are rental or purchase prices. We want to know how you make it work.

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