by the CI Editorial Committee
One of the many impacts of COVID-19 that continues to evolve is the migration and relocation of urban residents to area suburbs. Particularly in the Fairfield County region of Connecticut, the growth is evident and affects not only the real estate market in the region, but also the area schools and health networks.
While there are certainly families that have traded their urban apartments for suburban homes with yards, a study from the city of Chicago found that their mid-market apartment buildings fared extremely well and even showed an increase of anywhere from 3.7-5.9% in 2020. These findings have caught the attention of investors in our New England region, who see the affordable housing market more and more as a dependable choice.
Parallel to this conversation is that of housing equity. Certainly, another visible impact of COVID-19 was the financial burden placed on individuals and families who could no longer afford their rent due to unemployment, not to mention the millions of Americans who lack safe, stable housing. Through this lens, the demand for affordable housing which was present before COVID-19 has been heightened. According to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, more than 7 million additional affordable housing units are needed, with these numbers continuing to grow.
While multifamily housing isn’t disappearing post-pandemic, it is adapting. In the same way that our single-family homes have become hubs of learning, work, and play, so too have our apartments, with an even more pressing demand on the square footage to accommodate proper acoustics, designated activity space, and shared amenities. There are several new trends that are universally applicable as they seek to address the new health, access, productivity, and safety concerns of the population.
More people are looking to exercise, take a break to walk their dog, or bike when possible instead of using transit. Whether as a shared amenity or a private feature, the ability to step outdoors into the fresh air for work, play or relaxation will be a critical component of post-pandemic living.
Smart, Touchless Tech
From parcel storage and pick-up to security systems, elevators and doorman/concierge services, the incorporation of touch-free technology is set to reimagine these experiences. Extend this to scheduled maintenance visits, reservable conferencing space and amenity areas, as well as thermal comfort and building management systems, and technology quickly becomes the most versatile feature of post-pandemic life.
As multifamily buildings are asked to be workplaces and learning environments as well, new amenities such as recording rooms, craft rooms or maker spaces, and in-house bars or cafes are becoming checklist items for many residents. The ability to stay closer to home and host a “paint-and-sip” event, or hop downstairs for drinks and appetizers rather than traveling out seems increasingly popular.
Authentic, Healthy Interiors
From natural, environmentally conscious materials to health and wellness spaces, improved HVAC systems, and water purification systems, there is a trend toward authentic, personalized interior environments. While popular pre-COVID, certainly post-pandemic they will be even more valuable.
Multifamily housing has been, and continues to be, an important component of our built environment. While some areas have seen a migration away from urban areas into suburban single-family homes, other regions and populations are seeing an increased need for this housing typology.
With investors taking note, there comes an opportunity to balance the inequities currently in existence. The pandemic took a toll globally on individuals and families of all circumstances, but the research shows a need for affordable, safe and healthy housing has certainly increased post-pandemic. With these trends universally applied to all multifamily housing communities, we can support health, access, productivity, and safety for all.