January 23, 2012

3 Failings of Lennar’s NextGen Multigenerational Homes

by: Cavin Costello


Today’s post is by guest writer Cavin Costello:

Lennar Homes recently introduced their “NextGen” multigenerational house concept, a concept that has grown from some recently staggering statistics that show increased numbers of adult children moving home and baby boomers retiring. Some of these statistics are as follows:
– 30 percent of adults live in a doubled-up household
– Nearly one out of every seven (14.2%) of the country’s 25-34 year-olds live with their parents
– 350,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every month over the next 18 years

Lennar’s solution is a home within a home. The plan of this model provides a separate entry, bed, bath, laundry, living, and kitchenette. (It is important to note that it is a kitchenette, not a kitchen, which means it cannot have a stove. This distinction is made because current zoning does not allow a full second kitchen.)

After searching for more detail and studying the plan I find it quite ironic that it is called “The Independence.” As typical of big builders, the independence of this plan goes no further than its walls. Let’s break down this design to see how it lacks location, resource, and financial independence.

Location. The catchphrase of real estate is “location, location, location.” The first thing that jumps out when looking at the location of where these homes are being built is its car DEPENDENCY. In looking at their current house for sale, (5754 W Gambit Tr Phoenix) it has a Walkscore of 5 out of 100, is located 26 miles from downtown Phoenix, and is 4 miles from public transit. These homes are supposed to be the next generation of living for retired baby boomers and recent college graduates. The danger of senior citizens driving is well documented and there is much conflict over taking away licenses. Rather than take away their licenses, wouldn’t it be wiser to provide transit-oriented living for seniors to maximize their mobility rather than limit it? Also, a recent study by the Wall Street Journal showed that 88% Millennials (25-34 year olds) want to live in an urban setting which these homes clearly aren’t in.

Resource. The location and design of these homes make them incredibly resource DEPENDENT. As I showed in the previous paragraph, the construction on the suburban fringe uses immense amounts of resources (desert land, roads, utilities, etc) to even put them out there. Location aside, the house design is very poor. The Division Presidents boasts about Lennar’s energy saving specifications such as vinyl windows, radiant barriers, and 14 SEER air conditioners. Not only are these specifications very standard, they do very little to compensate for the lack of passive strategies to conserve energy. (He also doesn’t mention the use of the minimum amount of insulation per code.) You can see some of the flaws in the plan and rendering below. The house has a predominantly east-west orientation, small southern overhangs, almost zero cross ventilation, and a room arrangement that allows for very little natural light. The location of the garages on the south façade will help mitigate summer heat gain but while that is a plus, the house has no “eyes on the street” for reducing crime and building community. The house also is on the larger side at 3000 SF for 4 bedrooms.

Financial. An obvious financial DEPENDENCY is the commuting and automobile costs. Glendale is 18 miles away, Phoenix is 26 miles, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa and the rest are even further. Car, repairs, and insurance costs aside, a commute to any of those cities in a typical car would cost at least $6 a day or roughly $1560 a year. This expense might not be large for the main family or pertain to seniors, but remember, these are also targeting adult children moving home, most of whom do so to save money to pay off their college debts or for their own future home.

The main ideas behind these homes are fantastic and under represented in the Phoenix market. That being said, these ideas are being marketed as the next generation of housing, but to me they are just a new cover on an old book that has led Phoenix to where it is today.

If you want to see one of these Lennar NextGen Multigenerational homes for yourself, there is a model home currently on display at IKEA in Tempe:

When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through May.

Where: 8526 S. Emerald Drive, near Interstate 10 and Warner Road, Tempe.

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10 Responses

  1. I agree that the location noted above is not a good one for populations that need to rely less on cars, but it is not 11 miles from public transit. The bus routes along 35th Avenue and 59th Avenue both stop four miles away. So do express routes along I-17 and the 101. That’s four miles too far and bus rather than more popular rail, but still closer than 11.

    Also, there are major employers about four miles away. USAA is at I-17 and Happy Valley. Honeywell is at 59th Avenue and Union Hills. Of course, as you’d expect from any regular reader of this blog, I’d prefer for those employers to be in more central locations, but as with the transit routes, the case against this house is undermined by exaggeration.

    The broader problem here is that regardless of the style of house involved, the big production home builders generally focus on the fringes and avoid infill projects. At least the buyers of this house will live near the excellent hiking trails of the Deem Hills Recreation Area, one far northwest Phoenix attraction that is exactly where it should be.

  2. fishlegs says:

    we used to call them mother-in-law apartments

  3. Ric Winthrop says:

    I am a senior (single) and some other singles and I have been discussing this option… but long-term the location would leave you totally isolated when you could no longer drive. Not an attractive scenario. We want to be within walking distance of stores and restaurants.

    • Lovethishouse says:

      This home makes it dignified and comfortable for families to have their elderly parents live with them. Are people really complaining about location?? Wow. How about be located in a nursing home instead? Would be more convenient for errands , OR you could be grateful and figure out transportation you whiners!

  4. Cindy says:

    We actually love the Next-generation 2 homes.
    There are other locations that are great. We have cars, our child has a car…graduates in a few week’s. We ready to begin the process of buying one. We will live in the house and the private suite for our adult child.
    This would be our second Lennar home. We love Lennar and the quality is very good. Not a single problem with the structure of the house.
    Your research was poor!

  5. Jason says:

    This is just a generic complaint about the floorplan and location of the development…it has nothing to do with the actual concept of the Lennar Nextgen…misleading title…

  6. My husband and I are only in our 60s and the reason we would consider a next generation home is to help with finances and children. I see them every day any way. The problem I see is they are all in cookie cutter subdivisions . I would like to have one built on a piece of property out of a community . It is also the size. The main house is huge and the next generation piece is very small. We need it to be a bit larger.

  7. Rodney says:

    We just purchased a Genesis model (multigenerational) by Lennar in FL (very similar almost exact floorplan). I am a single older adult and my parents in their seventies. They will take the main house and I will have the suite. The article’s focus is on a single homesite rather than the concept in general. Ours is within walking distance to a bus stop. Also, on the size of the suite, you can close the angled wall of the den or study and put a door from the kitchenette to increase the suite space. It is a very smart home design for many situations.

  8. Lanette says:

    We’ve seen these homes pop up in Texas. We think they are a great concept. We are currently in a suburb of Dallas and the problem of Seniors having to commute is not a problem here at all. There are colleges and Universities quite close for college students. The amount space in these is impressive for the money and we love the home within a home concept,however I am not willing to forgo a family dining room . If it were a dining room option for this plan, We would be certainly sold. We were never a Lennar fan but over the last several years they have really stepped up to the plate, and this plan definitely gave them a much needed push to the top!

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