Marketing Affordable Housing: Dos and Don’ts

A comprehensive list of practices to consider when designing your strategy.

Lincoln Park Plaza. Image courtesy of Avanath Capital Management
Lincoln Park Plaza is a mixed-use multifamily community in Chicago including 147 affordable units, which are protected by a renewable HAP contract. Image courtesy of Avanath Capital Management

One might think marketing affordable housing is unnecessary because the shortage of available affordable housing units will have those rented out in no time. But while it’s true that the U.S. faces significant demand for affordable housing, this doesn’t mean that these communities don’t need the same level of marketing attention as market-rate apartments. In fact, due to its nature, marketing affordable housing might need some extra tact and care.

We’ve prepared a list with dos and don’ts to help your affordable community find residents.

Recommendations

Target audience: Just like with any housing segment, you need to understand your target audience’s demographics, needs and preferences. Do your due diligence and find out as much as possible about the segment of renters you are addressing.

The basic needs of affordable housing prospective residents are quite similar to those of any renter. So marketing these apartments to them starts at the same level: location—proximity to employment opportunities, public transportation and essential services; stability—the need for stable housing options that don’t consume a disproportionate amount of the income; and affordable monthly rates.

Residents living in affordable housing properties need communities that offer support and shared amenities, but the essential amenities remain in-unit laundry, air conditioning, dishwasher, private outdoor space and pet-friendly policies.


READ ALSO: When Tackling Affordability Is a Family Business


Financial options: When marketing affordable housing communities, providing clear and concise information on financing, subsidies and grants is very important. Include source links and contact information in your marketing materials to make it easier for them to access this information.

Sustainability: While all renters care about eco-friendly features and long-term savings on utilities, for affordable housing residents these features are crucial. These have environmental and economic benefits, as well as social benefits, contributing to healthier indoor environments, which enhance occupant well-being and the overall quality of life. More so, they also help reduce inequality and promote social equity, while contributing to community resilience against economic and natural disasters.

Accessibility: Make sure that marketing materials are accessible to people with disabilities. This means using alt text for images in your marketing materials. Alt text provides a brief description of the image, making it accessible to screen readers. For videos, include audio descriptions that describe visual content for users who are blind or have low vision. More so, these descriptions enhance the understanding of the video’s context. Video captions benefit both deaf and hard-of-hearing users and those in noisy environments. Likewise, provide transcripts for audio content—such as podcasts and webinars. These help users with hearing impairments access the information.

Digital presence: It almost goes without saying that online platforms and social media are absolute musts to reach a wider audience.

Testimonials: People’s experiences weigh heavily in other’s choices. Make sure to include success stories and testimonials from current residents in your affordable housing marketing strategy. These help build trust, help overcome skepticism and negative perceptions associated with affordable housing, create a personal connection as prospects can relate to the stories and experiences these people share and overall support community growth.

Transparency: Transparency is the hallmark of ethical marketing. So be transparent about costs, fees and potential waiting lists because implementing transparent practices builds trust and confidence with prospective residents.

Follow-up: Maintain communication with interested parties and provide updates on availability.

Avoid These

Overpromising: Avoid making unrealistic claims about the property or amenities, which can lead to bad reviews. Negative word-of-mouth is very difficult to correct. In addition, overpromising may lead to accusations of false advertising, which can have legal repercussions. Another big downside can be related to the financing aspect—overpromising can lead to financial strain on residents if they are led to believe that costs will be lower than they actually are. Ultimately, this will result in financial hardship for the residents and can affect the long-term viability of the housing project.

Stereotyping: Do not make assumptions about the target audience based on income. Several myths are going around, which need to be put to rest once and for all. These include property value misconceptions as some believe that affordable housing will drive down property values when, in fact, research shows that affordable housing can actually have a positive effect. Or that affordable housing will look like “cheap housing,” when in fact, affordable housing complies with the same building restrictions and design standards as market-rate housing and builders use similar construction techniques and materials. More so, affordable housing often meets higher standards due to federal regulations and funding requirements.

Neglecting maintenance: Don’t ignore the importance of showcasing well-maintained facilities. Regular maintenance keeps residents happy and safe, which is crucial for resident satisfaction. Neglecting it can contribute to negative stereotypes and opposition from the community.

Ignoring feedback: Failing to listen to community feedback can lead to a disconnect.

Inadequate information: Avoid providing insufficient details about the application process.

Poor timing: Be mindful of economic conditions, demographic shifts and timing your marketing efforts accordingly.

One-size-fits-all: Avoid using a generic marketing approach as it may fail to connect with individuals on a personal level. Instead, tailor it to the specific property. Keep in mind that people have diverse needs—families have different needs from seniors or individuals with disabilities. Also, housing markets vary greatly by location, and strategies that work in one area might not be effective in another due to differences in economic conditions, cultural norms and regulatory environments.

Lack of follow-up: Don’t forget to follow up with leads, as not doing so can result in lost opportunities.

Invisibility: We live and work in a full-blown digital era and failing to have an online presence can significantly reduce visibility.

Complexity: Avoid using overly complex language or jargon in marketing materials. While jargon can build trust within a community, overusing it can lead to ambivalence among audiences, making them less receptive to your message. More so, jargon can hinder meaningful connections by alienating potential customers who don’t understand the terminology. Another thing to consider is that if clients are using jargon in their searches, search engines may not display your content to them. Similarly, overly complex language can make your content sound robotic and less authentic, and authenticity is essential for building trust with your audience. Most of the time, opting for plain language ensures broader visibility and accessibility.

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