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Homes with granny flats gain popularity

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The Pioneer Press explores a home design – complete with granny suite – that is gaining in popularity with Minnesota families who want to be very close to aging parents – but not live with them exactly.

The newspaper visits the new "NextGen" Lakeville home of Troy Hokanson, whose aging mother has her own separate apartment. The apartments, typically contained within a traditional house's footprint, often have separate exterior entrances, their own single-car garage and an interior door connected to the main home. The units are generally about 600 square feet, smaller than a racquetball court, the Pioneer Press notes, and include a single bedroom and a kitchenette.

"It's really convenient," Hokanson told the newspaper.

The NextGen home design is being built in sites around the country by developer including Lennar, which claims to be first national homebuilder "to recognize the need of individual homebuyers and families to “double up” in order to share the cost of their mortgage and other living expenses."

Such homes – new ones also are being built in Woodbury, Stillwater and Maple Grove – appeal more and more to families as the nation's population ages and retirees live longer, Lennar's Minnesota marketing manager Tim Fohr, told the Pioneer Press.

A number of books published in recent years that offer advice to multigenerational families note that such living situations can create challenges – all that togetherness isn't always easy.

But there's a list of pros to weigh against the cons, the New York Times recently noted, including financial, practical and emotional benefits.

The beginning of the recession in 2007 was one factor that spurred a trend toward more multigenerational households, the Times notes.

In 2011, more than 51 million Americans, or roughly one in six, lived in a multigenerational household, according to a report by the group Generations United, which supports such families. That number was up 10 percent since 2007, the report says.

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