Born immediately after Millennials, Gen Z has grown up with smart phones in their pockets, so their expectations and requests when it comes to student housing amenities and features substantially differ from other generations. For example, as digital natives, Gen Zers demand constant access to technology. And since they are used to getting what they want, student housing providers have to work diligently to ensure that these needs and expectations are being met.
Bock Development Group CEO Tom Bock told Multi-Housing News that “Having the most recent tech and high-speed internet is crucial, as Gen Z renters spend a lot of time online.” In an interview, he also highlighted other important aspects Gen Zers take into account when searching for on- or off-campus student housing.
How are Gen Zers different from other categories of renters?
Bock: Gen Zers put more emphasis on experiences rather than in-unit amenities than any previous generation. Other subsets of renters may place most of their value on luxury in-unit amenities and finishes, while Gen Zers seek out prime locations and walkability in their next residence. Overall, younger generations’ preference for experiential offerings and convenience in an apartment building presents an opportunity for developers to research potential up-and-coming markets in hopes of finding the perfect place for their next multifamily project targeting this demographic.
How have residents’ needs changed in the past few years?
Bock: The biggest change I’ve seen in residents’ needs over the past few years, especially for the younger generations of renters, is the need for convenience. For example, having built-in bike storage in a building or being located just around the corner from a grocery store is a huge demand driver. Also, location is a major selling point for younger generations, especially for those in cities, who rely solely on public transportation to get around.
Bock: In this day and age, students consider high-tech living features essential when deciding where to live. Technology comes into play not only in high-efficiency washing machines and high-speed internet, but also wireless sound systems and state-of-the-art gadgets with synching capabilities. With technology companies releasing new products such as voice-activated speaker systems, residents will come to expect these items in their apartments. Technology-adaptive furniture and eco-friendly designs are also top of mind for students. Some essential items include wired furniture, or furniture with cut-outs to hide wires for computers and TVs, and LED lighting.
Apart from technology, name three aspects that you now take into consideration when developing a student housing community.
Bock: Location, security and activity space are top-of-mind when planning a student housing project. For student housing properties located in urban settings, public transportation is a plus, as many students don’t have a car. Security is another important aspect developers need to take into consideration. It doesn’t matter how nice your building is, if students, or their parents, don’t think it’s a safe place to call home, they won’t sign a lease.
Lastly, activity spaces, such as study lounges, game lounges, courtyards and rooftops are what students are looking for in an ideal housing community. This demographic is social and will want to relax or do homework in group settings. It is important for developers to incorporate these spaces into their projects as Gen Z is putting more emphasis on community activities.
What type of amenities does your company include in a project in order to attract Gen Z renters?
Bock: Gen Z renters are under the age of 22 and spending time with friends is a high priority. We design our projects to make sure our amenities serve a communal setting. Younger generations are focusing more on experiences rather than things, which is why at Bock Development Group we are curating spaces to meet that demand in our development projects.
For example, The Nest at 1324 (located near Temple University in Philadelphia) will offer an amenity level on the second floor of the building that will include four study lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, multiple lounges for socializing, two game lounges for entertainment and a terrace with seating. A landscaped garden will be situated along the entrance of The Nest at 1324 with a 1,000-square-foot patio offering outdoor seating. Gen Z is also used to instant gratification, so we have 2,600 square feet of retail on the first floor for those students that want to grab a meal quickly.
Bock: At 192 units, The Nest at 1324 offers students a more intimate and private off-campus housing experience. The apartment tower will provide all of the amenities and features one would expect with luxury living, but at an affordable cost. All apartments come fully furnished with its own washer and dryer, 65-inch TVs, Wi-Fi and cable. Modern appliances in each unit include a dishwasher and garbage disposal. Having all of these amenities in a student apartment is rare.
The units are larger and the three-bedroom units have two bathrooms, which isn’t a common feature. To facilitate the leasing process, we are taking the unusual step of implementing a roommate matching process, similar to on-campus dorms, to help those students who don’t have roommates and don’t wish to live in the studio units.
Our safety features also go above and beyond normal off-campus housing protocol. In addition to the 24/7 camera monitoring system and a key fob entry system, we are installing a biometric fingerprinting system that will allow a resident to access the building even if they do not have their key fob on them. And the key fob isn’t just used for the front door. The Nest at 1324’s secure key fob gives a student entry to the building, elevators, their apartment and bedrooms, ensuring privacy for all residents, even those with roommates.
What other projects suitable for Gen Z renters does Bock Development Group have in the pipeline?
Bock: Bock Development Group has previous experience developing other off-campus student housing projects near Temple University. However, our only current development project targeting this demographic is The Nest at 1324. Our other project currently underway is 2100 Hamilton, a luxury condominium complex in Philadelphia’s Art Museum district.
Image courtesy of Bock Development Group