March 12, 2018
Experts Corner

Developers must prep for apartments of tomorrow

Rick Haughey

Disruptive forces facing the real estate industry, such as the sharing economy, reimagined customer experiences, demographic/psychographic shifts and the pervasive impact of technology, mean the apartments of tomorrow should be radically different than today's multifamily spaces.

The sharing economy, for example, is chipping away at the divide between public and private space, prompting apartment communities to become more integrated into the larger community.

The National Multifamily Housing Council's 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey found that 58 percent of Millennials even believe that apartments should provide helpful services and amenities to the surrounding community.

As the multifamily industry begins to plan for, develop and open the apartment communities of tomorrow, understanding what residents expect from their living space is key to maintaining high occupancy rates and a competitive edge.

A global perspective on wellness

Health and wellness has evolved into a global concept that incorporates mind, body and spirit. And, while renters have long ranked fitness centers among the most desirable apartment amenities, they now also crave spaces to refresh and renew.

With 76 percent of respondents noting they are working to achieve a healthy lifestyle, apartment communities need to reshape their offerings to meet this demand. Think interactive fitness amenities, wellness centers and space to decompress.

Interestingly, while 93 percent of respondents crave a tranquil space to unwind and unplug, 57 percent seek an environment to promote better sleep. The latter is aligned with growth in the global sleep aid market, which was valued at $49.5 billion in 2016 and projected to reach $79.9 billion by 2022, according to Allied Market Research.

Staying connected

For renters, access to reliable cell reception and high-speed internet is important — as is space for face-to-face interaction with family and friends.

While we live in a digital world, approximately four out of five respondents (83 percent) note places to socialize face to face are important.

What does this mean for tomorrow's apartment communities? Think units with in-wall furniture storage and dynamic community spaces that can meet this need.

It’s time to adapt

Just as the multifamily industry must adapt to new demands, residents seek spaces that can adapt to their changing needs.

For 83 percent of respondents, a space that evolves with different stages of your life is important, while 78 percent seek space that can adapt to meet different needs.

Further driving the need for adaptation are seismic shifts in the ways that people work. The rise of telecommuting and growth of co-working both present challenges and opportunities for apartment communities.

And, while some have already begun responding to this shift by revamping outdated and under-utilized community spaces to become high-tech working environments, demand will only rise in the coming years. Among survey respondents, 63 percent noted space to telework or work remotely is important while 40 percent noted plans to telecommute more in the future.

The changing face of retail

Despite the continued growth of online shopping, consumers still crave access to brick-and-mortar retail. With 2018 slated to be a year of record retail closures — following 101 million square feet of retail closings in 2017 alone — apartment communities have an opportunity to fill the gap.

How? By embracing the experiential and pop-up trends that are changing the face of retail.

However, satisfying consumers' retail needs still stems beyond the physical — it's about the online, too. Apartment communities are faced with meeting increased needs for package storage, as consumers embrace not just online shopping, but subscription services for a broad array of items.

As architects and developers brace to meet national demand for 4.6 million new apartments by 2030, a keen understanding of how multifamily must respond to new technologies, a reimagined customer experience, changes in transportation and employment, and a heightened focus on wellness will shape the next generation of apartment living.

Rick Haughey is vice president of industry technology initiatives for the National Multifamily Housing Council with headquarters in Washington D.C.


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