View From the Southeast: Key Multifamily Issues

Jay Jacobson, president & CEO of EDEN Multifamily, discusses the most in-demand amenities as well as the importance of flexibility during development.
Jay Jacobson, president & CEO of EDEN Multifamily
Jay Jacobson, president & CEO of EDEN Multifamily

EDEN Multifamily, a boutique infill development company, made it its mission to focus on underserved and overlooked neighborhoods. Recently, EDEN acquired a 1.5-acre parcel in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the company plans to break ground on NEXT Las Olas, a 374-unit apartment tower that will rise 32 stories on the site of a former parking lot.

EDEN President & CEO Jay Jacobson spoke to Multi-Housing News about the company’s strategy, multifamily trends as well as ways to address the affordable housing shortage across the U.S. Jacobson also shared his view on the “rent versus ownership” debate and which has become a long-term solution for certain demographic groups.

What are the types of neighborhoods EDEN targets for acquisitions or new developments? What is the reasoning behind this?

Jacobson: We are typically targeting infill sites throughout the Southeast U.S. That doesn’t necessarily mean just urban city center sites, but locations that could be considered infill in typical suburban locations—especially in the high-density South Florida markets, which are typically built out or landlocked from further expansion. We are repurposing old retail, commercial and industrial spaces.

Which is the main demographic EDEN is catering to through its projects?

Jacobson: We don’t necessarily target a specific demographic—we develop and design market-rate housing to serve a broad spectrum of age and income cohorts. We do not believe in locking ourselves, our product into a specific preconceived notion of what certain age groups may or may not want in their housing solutions. We do not cater to the design whim of the day—we develop projects that will be around for an extended period of time. Tastes change, expectations change and residential housing is built for long-term ownership/investment and should be flexible enough to serve different age and market cohorts.

Can you tell us about the amenity trends currently shaping the multifamily real estate market?

Jacobson: Dogs and packages, seriously. More than 50-60 percent of all apartment residents have a pet of some sort, the majority of which are dogs. Properties need to take the welfare and maintenance of these pets seriously—dog walk areas, grooming etc. Package delivery is also a huge amenity that residents expect—from delivery lockers, package shipping and refrigerated storage for online grocery deliveries.

Car charging stations are a necessity along with the typical lifestyle amenities—exercise, super high-speed internet connections, community gathering spaces, bike repair and storage facilities and car sharing pick-up and drop-off areas.

What is your take on the latest in the “rent versus ownership” debate?

Jacobson: The “rent vs. own” debate has been raging for decades—it is no secret that homeownership rates fell dramatically during the last recession. They may tick up as the economy continues to strengthen. However, we believe that there has been a deeper acceptance of renting as a more permanent housing solution for an ever increasing renter pool, from the younger Millennial crowd through the aging Baby Boomer generations. Renting has become a more acceptable long-term solution for these groups.

What can you tell us about the affordable housing crisis and potential solutions to this issue?

Jacobson: Affordability is at a crisis level in the country. Although current financial solutions provide some relief and deliver some housing, they do not do nearly enough to address the overall issues of lower-income housing solutions and finding a fix for substandard housing. There needs to be a “rethinking” process from both government and the private sector, primarily from those industries in the economy that are directly responsible for significant employment yet do not offer their employees income levels that enable them to access affordable living solutions.

We cannot just rely on the government to provide the answers—corporate and industrial America needs to step up. We need a complete disruption of where and how to finance affordability going forward.

Image courtesy of EDEN Multifamily