Just Working Construction Inc.

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The Fairview Co-housing home

House Construction Interiors, Kitchener - Cambridge - Guelph

How the dream of building a multi-generational home was born in a quiet New Hamburg neighbourhood

Jeff and Natalie Van Gyssel, the owners of Just Working, wanted to renovate their 1953 New Hamburg bungalow to make it energy efficient. They were also ready for a design refresh. They knew, however, that as a middle-income family, a huge renovation project like this was beyond their financial reach.

Jeff and Natalie tend to think beyond themselves. When they hit an obstacle, they like to back up a bit and take a wider view. They want answers for others, too, not just themselves. And that’s how the dream of building a multi-generational home was born.

The catalyst: a rising cost in home ownership

Jeff and Natalie saw that housing prices were rising dramatically. The hope of home ownership was fading for many young couples. Young men and women were struggling to find decent accommodation in today’s rental market. They wondered about the future of their own children too.

Instead of giving up on their dream of renovating, Jeff and Natalie decided to dream bigger. They devised a plan to literally lift the roof off their modest bungalow. They would construct a second story which would contain two rental units. This would be their small part in helping to ease New Hamburg’s rental crisis.

Jeff and Natalie also designed their home to adapt to the future needs of their family. They foresaw a time later in life when they might want to move into one of their upstairs units. This would allow a son or daughter and their family to take over the original home on the main floor. Another of their children might want the second unit upstairs.

For now, the Van Gyssels are offering the two rental units at an affordable 75% of the market rate. Their plan is to recoup the cost of their renovations but not to earn extra cash from the rental income. This modest financial goal is part of their bold, personal vision. They want to give back to the community instead of using their multi-generational home to create an income stream.

Offering their home as a place where community can happen

Jeff and Natalie’s vision goes beyond creating an economic benefit for themselves and those who rent their units. They have opened their homes and their lives to their tenants as well. They have invited them to be part of a community with them. The Van Gyssels and their tenants have meals together around their big dining table every other week. They share outside chores, like lawn and garden care, snow shovelling, and taking the garbage to the curb. Their children play together. They look for ways to support each other.

What does a multi-generational home look like?

There is no right answer to what a multi-generational home looks like. It could be an older home converted into apartments or a modern home designed to allow for multiple family groupings. There are even family-focused condos being created to serve the growing market for multiple generations to live together and support one another. Multi-generational homes can offer separate living spaces or shared spaces under the same roof. Sometimes shared living spaces include additional kitchen facilities and private areas.

Ideally, multi-generational homes can adapt themselves to changing family circumstances. They are a creative response to a need that exists in this post-prosperous world. They tend to be more energy efficient. And they hearken back to a time when, often by necessity, extended family lived together under the same roof. As with Jeff and Natalie’s house, they often lend themselves to accommodating rental units depending on the changing needs of a family over time.

Reclaimed, retained, and re-used

Much of what you see is constructed from reclaimed material. The large entryway into the kitchen is framed with weathered barn beams creased with blue paint. The countertops and sides are constructed with poured cement slabs and stone masonry. Bookshelves are made of reclaimed boards. The open stairwell is set off by a panel of reclaimed brick. The floor is also from reclaimed ash trees cut down because of an ash borer infestation. It has a lustrous finish and will withstand the wear and tear of multiple generations.

The kitchen is a modest size. Jeff and Natalie kept the existing cabinetry and repainted it a tranquil grey to harmonize with accents of blue and teal. Above the cabinetry, they’ve built open cupboards with white face-frames painted teal inside to showcase their ceramic pieces.

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