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Multi- generational housing units are not a new idea, but one deeply rooted in Asian culture of respect for our parents. So deeply entrenched into our customs that many parents themselves view their children as their retirement plan. It is also a fact that, demographically, the country’s population is rapidly greying. With life expectancy increasing and the country’s base of young people shrinking, living with one’s parents (again) is becoming increasingly commonplace.

If one recalls the first time around where, for about 18 years, two generations shared a roof, the prospect can bring about mixed emotions. Parents – they can be nurturing and pampering or overbearing and controlling. Living with one’s parents come in two flavours: under the same roof, or in a separate, dual key apartment. In either case, there are some pertinent things to consider before taking the plunge.

For soft factors, one has to be cognisant of the generational gap between each segment of the family. Personality issues, personal preferences and the anxiety of ageing could easily cause conflict. Parenting styles are frequent bugbears between generations. Sometimes, even differences in interactions with pets, especially feeding habits, can cause friction. However, the upside is having an extra pair of eyes and hands available to look after children and pets, while Mom and Dad are busy at the office.

Recognising the greater need to bring the nuclear family together, the Government designated housing units that addressed the need. First appearing in 2013, these units were initially made available in Yishun in small quantities. These flats were larger, with four bedrooms. However, they were smaller than the traditional 5-room flats. This would make reselling less attractive and more difficult than finding a buyer for a 5-room flat.

Space is at the heart of a decision to apply for a three-generational (3GEN) flat. There is ample living space, but is there enough fighting space? With closer contact, comes familiarity and then contempt. When disputes erupt, the proximity could make anger fester longer as the quarrelling parties have nowhere to go to calm down.

Taking a long-term view, it is pertinent to note that the take-up rate for 3GEN flats have been low. If the trend continues, those looking to dispose of the property might find it more challenging as these flats can only be sold to other three-generation family units.

Those hoping to defray the mortgage costs by sub-letting the flat also need to be aware of the rules that prohibit sub-rental of such units, although 3-room and larger flats can be sub-let almost immediately. However, it can be said that the opportunity cost can be mitigated by the usage of the money in the parents’ CPF accounts. The HDB (Housing Development Board) allows the usage of one’s parents’ CPF money to go towards the purchase of the 3GEN flat.

At around the same time, private apartments started offering dual-key apartments. These essentially allowed parents to stay in the same apartment unit but maintain a wholly separate living space with a front door of its own – plugging a gap in HDB’s offerings. The practical considerations are similar with conflict and resale topping the list.

So, before taking the plunge and inviting Mom and Dad to move in, one has to do their research and think carefully about their unique living situation. After all, there is more than one way to show filial piety.

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