The Transformation of Apartment Amenities

A look at what renters want now.

Image by Melk Hagelslag via Pixabay

Change is constant in life; ‘standard’ is temporary and ‘normal’ is something we’re still trying to figure out. A 20-year-old in 2022 perceives normalcy completely different from a 20-year-old in the 1980s. And that’s normal.

It’s also perfectly normal for multifamily property owners and developers to feel pressure to change. The pandemic, the evolution of technology and climate change are current factors driving change, and the amenity package at residential communities is usually the first to be updated.

“We spend a lot of time talking to our leasing agents and managers to understand who our client is, what they want today, and what they will appreciate in the future,” John Cutrer, CIO, CityStreet Residential Partners, told Multi-Housing News. “The feedback we get from them is invaluable—they are on the front lines and hear from the residents firsthand about what’s popular and what would be helpful.”

How is the amenity landscape transforming?

From business centers to co-working spaces

Co-working Space at Domain Heights, Houston. Image courtesy of CityStreet Residential Partners

“One of the most significant changes in the new generation of apartments is in the design of our business centers,” said Cutrer.

The space dedicated to work has been through a lot of remodeling in recent years: From being tucked away in overlooked corners, equipped with just a few computers and a printer in a “nicely finished but relatively sterile room,” business centers regained center stage about five years ago, thanks to digital nomads and the open space concept in office environments. Their redesign included  charging ports, modular seating and tables serving as laptop support when needed.

Then, the pandemic arrived, which “prompted a new evaluation of how these rooms were really being used and what our residents wanted,” according to Cutrer. New requirements again changed the face of business centers, and coworking lounges are being outfitted with Wi-Fi, a printer, a coffee bar and video conference private rooms because work-from-home became the norm for two whole years (and counting).

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“Many more of our residents are working from home now and appreciate the opportunity to host a meeting on-site without having to invite their guests into their apartment. Most people have their own laptop now, so our priority has shifted to providing robust Wi-Fi instead of sleek looking computers,” Cutrer said.

The former communal working spaces have again turned into private spaces, which in some communities are used on a reservation basis because residents need privacy for calls or meeting. They now feature built-in desks with lamps and outlets and window views.

From Internet access to private Wi-Fi networks

While on one hand, remote work implies strong internet and mobile connectivity with sufficient power sources, an increasing number of home appliances rely on the internet, from vacuum cleaners to home assistants.

So, if not so long-ago internet access was the standard attraction for tech users, now it is Wi-Fi networks protected by passwords available only to residents living (and working) in the community. Residents now expect to connect to the Wi-Fi network without issues and to have fees included in the rent, instead of waiting for the internet person to show up and install their router.

From gym to virtual fitness classes and streaming services

Virtual fitness machine at Domain Heights, Houston. Image courtesy of CityStreet Residential Partners

Exercising helps us keep us in shape and helps promote mental health. Hence, being able to do our workouts at home, or in the vicinity of our home, has never been more desired than during the pandemic.

To comply with social distancing measures during the worst months of the pandemic, some communities invested in a reservation system for on-site amenities to book gyms, but also pools and even elevators. Some communities have invested in virtual fitness classes, which can be accessed from the on-site fitness center or the residents’ own apartments.

From AC thermostats to Smart HVAC thermostats

The HVAC is the improved version of the AC (air conditioning) system, which in addition to cooling the air can also heat it (during the cold season) and provide ventilation to allow moisture to escape. A smart HVAC system acts as a building automation system, letting the occupants control the temperature of the room or workspace and pairs seamlessly with other technologies.

From assigned parking to electric charging stations

Private parking garage at Domain Heights, Houston. Image courtesy of CityStreet Residential Partners

Until recently, assigned parking and private garages were high on residents’ amenity checklist (everyone is afraid of the towing service), as were close-by transportation options. The latter remained as important, but the first has ‘modernized’ its appearance: an increasing number of people are shifting from internal combustion engine cars to electric cars, which means there is a growing demand for private electric charging stations.

Cutrer explained that “our prior generation of developments included wiring to accommodate a resident provided electric car charger in some of the private garages. This is no longer enough. Electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming more prevalent and these vehicles often need to be charged at home. We are providing electric car chargers at our new developments so that residents can pull into a parking space and charge their car, whether it be overnight for a full charge or to top off their battery for half an hour.”

This upgrade is not an easy one, involving a lot of front-end work on wiring the property to accommodate the heavier electric demand, according to Cutrer.

“There is a significant cost to us in providing this amenity,” Cutrer said. “But we see this as a critical part of our development and its appeal to our residents.”

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