New Thinking

With a variety of suburban markets part of the development wave fed by employment growth, more and more apartments in suburban locations are providing an alternative to single-family housing, writes editorial director Suzann D. Silverman in her monthly column.
Editorial Director Suzann D. Silverman
Editorial Director Suzann D. Silverman

Well into the economic cycle, development continues to add to the U.S. apartment inventory as employment growth drives movement to major cities, and particularly to the Sunbelt, according to Yardi Matrix’s monthly multifamily report for March. In fact, according to the report, apartment deliveries should hit a cycle high this year—a positive sign, despite the resultant drop in occupancy across nearly all of the top 30 markets in the 12 months ending in March, weakened rent growth and a nevertheless persistent affordability problem.

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Urban apartments have benefited from that employment growth, which is complemented by the lure of a walkable live-work-play environment and the ease of lock-and-leave apartment life that continue to attract Millennials and Baby Boomers alike. But a variety of suburban markets are also part of the development wave, not only providing easy access to city jobs as communities emerge along public transit lines but also creating mixed-use microcosms that offer a measure of urban vitality to those preferring to eschew the commute or big-city life. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all renters nationally live less than 30 minutes from their jobs, according to National Multifamily Housing Council data—and those can’t all be city dwellers.

While renter-occupied housing still comprises just 37 percent of U.S. households and 35 percent of residents, according to the NMHC, more and more apartments in suburban locations are providing an alternative to single-family housing. Once considered solely a city phenomenon, residential density now cuts across the urban-suburban boundary, leading the NMHC to conclude that the traditional divide no longer provides an accurate measure of metro-specific demographic characteristics. As an alternative, it has begun to examine the densities themselves, irrespective of municipal delineations, a strategy that it is finding allows for more accurate analysis of both housing stock and its residents.

Those densities seem hardly likely to remain static, necessitating ongoing analysis to help determine new approaches to urban planning and evaluation of resident requirements. Add to that the growing array of opportunities to build communities sustainably and safely, operate them efficiently, tighten security, and improve residents’ way of life through services and amenities, and the possibilities for advancement seem never-ending—and with them, potential for increased occupancy and rents.

Possibilities are everywhere, and constantly evolving: Take Jonathan Rose Cos. and L+M Development Partners’ construction of Sendero Verde in Harlem using the Passive House concept. Or Jonathan Holtzman’s hospitality-derived customer service practices applied first with Village Green communities and now through his new company, City Club Apartments. What new ideas are you pursuing?

You’ll find more on this topic in the May 2018 issue of MHN.