A New Kind of Renter

“I enjoy talking to you. Your mind appeals to me. It resembles my own mind except that you happen to be insane.”
― George Orwell, 1984

I happened into a Tokyo Joe’s to order some teriyaki and noticed that the young woman helping me was pretty much covered with tattoos, something I don’t see all the time. She was really nice, got the order right and when I commented on how colorful she looked, she told me that was what she was after.

I walked away with a positive impression, not because I was going to have a gourmet lunch, but because I recognized that this Gen Y member was doing her level best to be an individual. That’s something I don’t see very often as I travel around the country. I am in airports, restaurants and in city centers lots of times, and the number of times I see spiked hair, nose rings or lots of tats as they call them is much less than I would have hoped for.

Gen Y seems to me, to be striving for the ability to make their own life and find their own path, but the level of individuality seems to be a dull roar, at least on the outside. On the inside, their political views, social consciousness and viewpoint on business and consumerism rages.

While I openly congratulate the ones who dress differently or have some particular way of sharing their sense of style, I wish the rest were more openly creative in how they lived their lives.

That is, I suppose where we come in. In touring a new Kettler managed property in downtown Washington recently, I saw a lot of signs of how the core areas, lobby and units were catering to this need for individuality. In the old days, vanilla was pretty much what you might get in any apartment. Now the newly constructed buildings stand for a quality of life and a sense of purpose and continuity in the community. There is a lot of press about over building and lots of observations from pundits about how it will affect rents and will cause concessions to pop up again. I think they miss the point.

These newly designed and leased-up towers represent not only housing for career minded Gen Y residents, but the creation of a new kind of renter, expressing individuality in a number of ways, contributing to their communities as never before, and changing the paradigm of how renters really live their lives. I don’t think new construction adds to supply and creates problems; I believe it changes society in a positive way.

The next time I see someone so obviously different that their individuality screams out, I might just take them back to Tokyo Joe’s buy them a lunch.

Jack Kern is the research editor at Multi-Housing News and Commercial Property Executive. Jack recently returned from the National Multihousing Council’s annual meeting in Boca Raton and will be commenting on the trends affecting the industry throughout the year. It was colder in Florida than usual, which will probably color his perception about what constitutes an investment grade market. If Florida is a precedent, than Anchorage might be the next meeting site.