Rewriting the Student Housing Amenities Playbook

As Gen Z moves through the college pipeline, their focus on health and wellness will influence the services and comfort offered at on- and off-campus communities.

Common area with sanitizing station at Auden Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C. Image courtesy of DMG Investments

For every college student captured by the media disobeying their COVID-19 curfew, there are many others at home in their off-campus apartments playing it safe and following the rules.

The Gen Z demographic currently moving through the student housing pipeline is known for its practicality. Born after 1997, they saw how family and friends had to downsize during the financial crisis of 2008—and it makes perfect sense that Gen Z would be cautious about where they spend money and how. They are also hyper-aware of mental health issues and the importance of overall wellness.

READ ALSO: Keeping Up With Growing Demand for Off-Campus Student Housing

Gone are the days of off-campus apartments being highly valued for extravagant amenities like tanning beds, lazy rivers and golf simulators. Gen Z residents love to exercise, study and socialize. Being able to take a virtual tour with all the bells and whistles is an attractive amenity when apartment shopping, but an impromptu FaceTime tour is fine, too.

Prospective residents will undoubtedly ask about wireless internet connection. Having enough bandwidth for their devices is a must—especially now that they are spending so much time in their apartments. The team at DMG Investments, which operates its portfolio under the Auden Living brand, has determined that Internet load is most significant around finals and midterms—and maintaining this level of service always ensures residents are never disappointed.

Empowering students

Since the onset of the pandemic, residents of purpose-built student housing have been able to use amenity spaces to varying degrees depending on CDC guidelines and local regulations. “We have minimized touchpoints in the mailrooms and have been diligent about disinfecting packages,” Jennifer Beese, executive vice president & COO of American Campus Communities, told Multi-Housing News.

Jennifer Beese, EVP & COO, American Campus Communities. Image courtesy of American Campus Communities

American Campus Communities also uses apps that are flexible in allowing delayed notifications to the residents to ensure the proper amount of time to sort, log and store the packages before the resident comes to retrieve them. “Some of our communities also use package locker solutions that we’ve implemented for resident convenience to retrieve packages outside of office hours,” Beese noted.

“Our commitment has been to empower students, with our community disinfection and resident responsibility program, Be safe. Be smart. Do your part, in collaboration with Lysol,” she added. A major component of this program is to provide guidance, procedures and educational training on the proper products, cleaning practices and protocols to help maintain clean and disinfected environments.

In addition, every American Campus Communities resident must sign a COVID-19 personal responsibility acknowledgment for resident behavior. This includes a pledge to practice physical distancing, wear a face covering when required and perform a daily wellness self-check to identify any COVID-19 symptoms. 

“Due to social distancing, single room and private bathroom accommodations will likely be in high demand next fall and onward,” according to Campus Advantage’s Kaitlyn Ballesteros, director of consulting, and Caitlin Chalem, director of business development and market research, who blogged about this topic in July.

At Auden Living communities, COVID-19 cases have been rare. “If we find out that a student has tested positive, and has a roommate or multiple roommates, we offer (when available) a single-occupancy space/apartment where they can recover without having to worry about contaminating anybody else,” Jeff Amengual, COO of DMG Investments, told MHN.

Jeff Amengual, COO of DMG Investments. Image courtesy of DMG Investments

All of DMG’s properties have bed-bath parity. “Having their own bedroom and bathroom really cuts down the transmission levels in those units,” Amengual said. DMG is finding that more and more students—and parents—are considering that the added price point for a single bedroom and bathroom student housing apartment all to themselves is worth it. “We’re looking at developing properties with a higher density of single bedrooms and maybe some studio apartments as well,” he told MHN.

READ ALSO: Is the Pandemic Changing Student Housing Design?

DMG is currently developing a new student housing facility in Buffalo, N.Y., adjacent to SUNY Buffalo. “On the amenities side, I think we really hit the apex,” Amengual said. “We have an ice skating rink because ice skating is extremely important in Buffalo. We also have a swimming pool, sauna and a small theater with a popcorn machine. State-of-the-art gyms and club rooms will continue to be standard features,” he added.

Crisis mitigation

Once the much-needed COVID-19 vaccine will be released, student housing residents will be able to come and go freely and enjoy amenity spaces without restrictions once again. In the meantime, student housing operators are committed to creating a positive and stress-free environment for their residents.

student housing amenities

American Campus Communities residents wearing Hi, How Are You masks. Image courtesy of American Campus Communities

“Our residence life programs include an array of activities that promote social interaction in responsible ways,” Beese said. American Campus Communities hosts a public gratitude wall for students to add a note about what they are grateful for, a virtual painting event built around instructions from a legendary Bob Ross TV episode and observing Suicide Prevention Month in September.

“We partner with the Hi, How Are You project, a mental health-focused nonprofit, to destigmatize the shame around mental health issues and create a culture of open dialogue on college campuses across the nation,” Beese noted. The team is also trained to recognize and understand warning signs, how to start a conversation and provide resources related to mental health and wellness. These types of student housing amenities resonate with Gen Z and will resonate beyond COVID-19.

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