More families move in together during housing crisis

Love isn't all that's keeping family together today. The bruising housing market is, too.

Last year, Kanessa Tixe's dad had just finished building a three-family house when he lost his superintendent job in February. He wasn't sure how to make the $5,000-a-month mortgage on the new house in Queens, N.Y.

So Tixe and her siblings decided to help out in an unusual way: They moved in. In December, her father moved into the first floor; her stepsister and husband moved into the second floor; and her stepbrother and Tixe took the third floor. The entire family has become roommates, banding together to pay rent and help their dad with the mortgage until he finds long-term tenants.

"We're still living there now. Times are rough," says Tixe, 26, a publicist. "It's been very beneficial that we're all together. My stepbrother and I have a wonderful relationship now. We eat together for dinner, and I've become closer to my dad, too. This is an important time for family to help, the way the housing market is going. Our story is a testament to how families should come together to help with a mortgage."

The weak economy — which has brought surging foreclosures, sinking property values, vanishing home equity and mounting job losses — is playing a major role in family dynamics, pulling relatives under the same roof to pool their resources and aid relatives who've lost their homes.

Siblings are moving in with one another to help pay the mortgage. Adult children who've lost homes to foreclosure are moving back home with Mom and Dad. Even spouses in the throes of divorce are putting off separating, living together in awkward cold wars because they can't sell their houses.

That's in large part because those losing homes often have nowhere else to go. Many live paycheck to paycheck: Nearly 61% of local and state homeless coalitions are seeing an increase in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to an April 2008 study by the National Coalition for the Homeless. Only 5% said they hadn't seen an increase. The survey found that more than 76% of homeowners and renters who must move because of foreclosures are staying with family and friends.

Many are affected. Foreclosure filings surpassed 3 million in 2008, according to a recent report by RealtyTrac. The report also shows that one in 54 homes received at least one foreclosure filing during the year.

"If you have someone you love, and they're in need, and they come to you and say, 'Can I stay with you awhile?" — of course, you'll say, 'Yes.' But there are risks," says Debra Yergen, author of Creating Job Security Resource Guide. "Maybe they have pets, maybe they go out to eat, and that causes friction. There are all kinds of family dynamics. That's not to say it's not worth it, but you have to think it through so that no one feels taken advantage of."

All ages losing homes

More families are living with relatives, based on the most recent statistics available. Nearly 3.5 million brothers or sisters are living in a sibling's house, according to 2007 Census Data, up from 3 million in 2000. And 3.6 million parents live with their adult children, up from 2.3 million. About 6.7 million householders live with other relatives, such as aunts or cousins, compared with 4.8 million in 2000. That year, the housing market was beginning its boom stretch, which lasted until late 2005.

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