Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Today’s Housing Market Fails to Fully Meet Needs of Extended Families, New CAP Report Shows
Press Release

RELEASE: Today’s Housing Market Fails to Fully Meet Needs of Extended Families, New CAP Report Shows

Washington, D.C. — Extended families—households that include grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, siblings and other relatives living together—compromise 17 percent of households. Yet, today’s housing market does not meet the needs of these families, a new report released today by the Center for American Progress shows. CAP’s report highlights how existing housing stock is less suited to the realities of today’s modern households, particularly for the greater number of adults who live together as part of extended and multigenerational families.

“Ongoing demographic changes have important implications for housing. In particular, immigration and changes in the age composition of the U.S. population are contributing to the growth of a variety of household types,” said Michela Zonta, Senior Policy Analyst at CAP and author of the report. “These households are very different from the nuclear family, for whom much of the housing stock built since World War II has been oriented.”

Examples of extended families, which numbered 85 million in 2014—an increase from 58 million in 2001—include families in which adult children return to their parents’ home for financial support; families that take in parents who may be widowed, ill, disabled, or in need of economic and other types of support; and families that take in the householders’ siblings or other relatives of the same generation.

New data analysis from CAP in the report reveals that families of color are more likely to form extended households than their white counterparts. Extended families also tend to be economically worse off than nuclear families, experience higher rates of poverty, and tend to live in metropolitan areas such as New York City and Los Angeles. The structure of extended households varies significantly by region and race and ethnicity.

CAP’s analysis finds that extended families tend to be underhoused—meaning that they exceed the common occupancy standard of two persons per bedroom—and have much less per capita space than nuclear families. Underhousing is more common among people of color, particularly Latino families. CAP’s report shows that there is a demand-supply mismatch in housing for extended families, and many larger housing units—those with three bedrooms or more—are only for sale rather than available for rent. Furthermore, the report found that larger units that are available for rent may be priced out of reach for working families.

These findings and demographic and housing trends emphasize the need for policies that account for a changing United States. To that end, this report concludes with a series of policy recommendations that support the development and preservation of affordable housing that best suits the needs of extended families. Those recommendations include:

  • Encouraging local jurisdictions to broaden housing code and land use regulations to support the development and legalization of accessory dwelling units
  • Bringing secondary units now deemed substandard to code
  • Encouraging the development and preservation of larger affordable units
  • Preserving small rental properties
  • Continuing supporting homeownership
  • Exploring and funding pilot programs for the development of affordable flexible homes

Click here to read “Housing the Extended Family” by Michela Zonta.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at or 202.478.6331.