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The Flex-Nest: The Accessory Dwelling Unit as Adaptable Housing for the Life Span

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American families have dramatically changed over the past sixty years, but the single-family home that houses them has evolved very little. Demographics indicate that while household numbers have gotten smaller over the decades, house sizes have become considerably larger. There has been little diversity offered in housing types, with builders and consumers favoring the detached single-family home as the icon of American success. But overwhelming recessionary pressures on American housing since 2007 have taken a toll. The housing market collapse has led to many foreclosures and subsequent vacant single-family homes, while simultaneously creating a scarcity in the rental market. Rising unemployment has seen Generation Y college graduates flocking back to the nest of their parental homes, baby boomer parents wonder when their nest will become less crowded, and the elderly are desperately trying to remain in their homes. The stock of affordable US housing is shrinking, and little new construction is on the horizon. These realities have led to a shortage of affordable housing, and motivated residents to choose complex housing arrangements, including shared housing, doubling up, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The ADU is examined for the financial, social, and personal benefits it can provide as an alternative to families living alone in single-family homes. For many, the partitioning of a home can provide solutions to housing children, parents, and also renters who might generate extra income to help with the mortgage. The additional benefits of ADUs for the rapidly growing elderly population are investigated, and seven flexible design models proposed as potential housing solutions.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2013

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  • Interiors: Design, Architecture, Culture brings together the best critical work on the analysis of all types of spaces. The journal investigates the complexities of the interior environment's orchestration and composition, and its impact on the inhabitant from a trans-disciplinary perspective.

    The interior is the journal's central focus and contributions from interior design practitioners and theorists are welcome. The journal embraces perspectives from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, architecture, art and design history, cultural studies and visual culture, and places no limits in terms of either geography or chronology. The journal sets out to challenge divisions between theory and practice, and aims to provide an essential forum for all those with an interest in the design, history and meaning of interiors.


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