It’s an unfortunate fact that the affordable crisis has been an ongoing one, and in many ways, the pandemic has only exaggerated it. As such, we’ve seen increasing calls over the past few years for creativity and innovation when it comes to the future of the industry. And while states continue to struggle to fully meet their affordable housing needs, shifting expectations around what it means to create and rent out safe, quality spaces are encouraging the industry to move forward in exciting ways. Here are just a few emerging trends in affordable housing we think will play an important role in shaping the next few years – and beyond.
5 trends in affordable housing we’re watching
Emphasis on DEI
The past 18 months have been characterized by an increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of life and work, and the housing industry hasn’t been left out of those conversations. Renters are becoming increasingly aware of the diversity – or lack thereof – within their own neighborhoods, and many support initiatives like the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Program that bring marginalized groups into better housing situations.
What’s more, some communities are advocating for more inclusionary zoning practices. Giving lower-income families the opportunity to live in higher-end neighborhoods has been shown to improve health and educational outcomes, along with creating more diverse job networks and contacts.
Now more than ever, people are recognizing the role safe, adequate housing plays in creating thriving, upwardly mobile communities. New initiatives at both the state and local levels will be important in pushing the industry forward in a meaningful way.
Rethinking the leasing process
Along with a better understanding of how investing in diversity positively impacts communities, property management groups are now also recognizing the importance of proptech in creating better processes for both workers and renters. The pandemic radically changed the way people look for their next apartment, and many property management teams have had to reassess how they approach things like tours and leasing. Many are leaning more heavily into automated solutions like chatbots to streamline the leasing process and provide things like 3D tours when properties are unable to be visited in person.
People want digital solutions to things like leasing, especially in a time where many might not be able to actually visit and complete paperwork at a property’s office in person. Rethinking the leasing process through technologies like chatbots gives people an easier way to find a new place, and saves property management teams hours of valuable time each week.
One of the biggest trends in affordable housing today is building spaces with better, more targeted amenities. Affordable housing has traditionally been bereft of many of the amenities other classes of housing have enjoyed, but some new properties are working to challenge convention and provide higher-quality spaces for renters. Larger kitchens, office space, and more natural lighting are just a few things renters are looking for within their private spaces, especially those with remote or hybrid jobs.
In addition to larger spaces, more people are looking for walkable communities, or apartments with easy access to places like grocery stores, childcare centers, and more.
Along with better amenities, prospective renters value sustainable, eco-friendly design more than ever. As more people become aware of the climate crisis, they want to live in more eco-conscious ways, and that includes housing. To provide this, we’re seeing many builders opting to incorporate more sustainable practices into construction and apartment design. Ultimately, many of these more sustainable choices are also more cost-effective, saving money on energy usage and maintenance costs.
Electronic-first communication and data management
Many property management groups’ forays into proptech like leasing chatbots have unearthed a fact about consumer behavior that until recently, the real estate space was uncomfortable admitting: most people prefer to do things online. If information about your property isn’t easy to find online, or you lock information behind email walls or phone numbers people must call, they’re not going to be as likely to want to pursue a lease. Chatbots and other automation solutions reduce the amount of time leasing teams spend answering repetitive questions. It also helps them in the information gathering phase where the bot asks and collects the income and household info then pre-qualifies the prospective affordable renter.
Giving people a way to get information on things like amenities, floor plans, rent payments, and maintenance 24/7, 365 is critical. And on the flip side, investing in digital solutions for data management and analytics can help enable property management teams to be able to better understand renter needs and anticipate turnover.
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