In a recent panel discussion, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) discussed the value of multigenerational housing and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as potential remedies 
for the housing shortage and affordability challenges many Americans face.

In a recent panel discussion, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) discussed the value of multigenerational housing and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as potential remedies for the housing shortage and affordability challenges many Americans face.

Tom Kalinski, RE/MAX of Boulder

Tom Kalinski, RE/MAX of Boulder

With a persistent shortage of houses, rising costs and still-high interest rates squeezing first-time buyers, innovative housing solutions are gaining ground. Two options attracting attention as potential solutions for many in Colorado and nationwide are multigenerational housing and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). 

In a recent panel discussion, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) discussed the value of multigenerational housing and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as potential remedies for the housing shortage and affordability challenges many Americans face.

Sharing a roof, sharing costs: Multigenerational housing

The concept of multiple generations living together isn’t new in many cultures, and it’s gaining traction in the U.S. as housing affordability concerns mount, according to the NAR panel. The benefits of multigeneration housing are many, including:

  • Affordability boost: Sharing housing expenses allows families to potentially qualify to purchase a bigger home or to buy a home sooner.
  • Homeownership path:
    Multigenerational co-ownership can help younger generations achieve the dream of homeownership.
  • Generational wealth building: Shared ownership fosters equity building for the involved generations, whether young or older.
  • Societal advantages: Sharing a living space can facilitate caregiving for elderly family members and childcare for younger ones.


ADUs: Adding units, not sprawl
ADUs are secondary dwelling units incorporated into existing single-family properties. They can be attached to the main house, such as an apartment in the basement, over the garage, or a separate structure in the backyard. Think granny flats, mother-in-law apartments, carriage and guest houses. 

ADUs provide a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Increased housing stock: ADUs create additional housing options without requiring large-scale development, which fits nicely in communities with limited land for building.
  • Income potential:
    Homeowners can rent out ADUs for extra income, provided local regulations are followed.
  • Flexible living: ADUs can accommodate extended families, provide aging-in-place solutions, or offer additional living space.

The value of these housing options comes into sharp focus when talking with homebuyers actively in the market. A recent survey from
Realtor.com® and Censuswide of those planning to buy a home within the next 12 months found that half of more than 700 respondents may rely on co-housing with parents or extended family to save for a home. About one-third of respondents live with other family members and another 24% would consider moving in with their siblings or extended family to save for a home purchase.

Living with family isn’t the only cash-saving strategy would-be homebuyers are considering. More than 60% have or would move into a smaller rental or less desirable neighborhood to save downpayment for a future home purchase.  

Many policymakers see these versatile units as critical to increasing housing supply. Boulder County housing officials and those in cities across Colorado are looking to streamline regulations to make ADUs a more accessible option in areas where zoning allows. For example, Louisville, Lafayette and Superior are considering revisions to their ordinances and comprehensive plans that might ease ADU restrictions, according to the East County Housing Opportunity (ECHO) coalition. ECHO is working to help people access affordable, quality housing in the same Boulder County communities where they work, study and play. 

Longmont and Boulder currently have an ADU program, which you can learn more about at the echocolorado.com website. Boulder has an affordable ADU incentive that reduces parking requirements to encourage homeowners to create affordable ADUs. 

There are restrictions, however. For example, ADUs are permitted only where allowed by the land use code and properties with ADUs must have at least one owner living on site, either in the ADU or the principal unit. The property must be the owner’s principal residence, meaning the owner must live there for more than half the year. ADUs may not be used as a short-term rental unless the ADU and short-term rental license were established before Feb. 1, 2019, according to the BoulderColorado.gov website. Boulder offers an example of an ADU program that incentivizes affordability. It’s important to note that some homeowners’ associations (HOAs) in Colorado prohibit or restrict ADUs.

The road ahead
Multigenerational housing and ADUs offer unique opportunities to address housing affordability and availability. Wider adoption hinges on overcoming regulatory hurdles and careful planning.

For more information on local ADU developments and multigenerational housing, visit these resources:


By Tom Kalinski. Tom is the broker/owner of RE/MAX of Boulder, the local residential real estate company he established in 1977. He was inducted into Boulder County’s Business Hall of Fame in 2016 and has a 40-year background in commercial and residential real estate. For questions, e-mail Tom at [email protected], call 303.441.5620, or visit boulderco.com.