How Multifamily Housing Can Solve Urban Loneliness And Boost Value

Real Estate


Loneliness is something most people need to cope with at some point, but it can hit harder when you see it affecting someone you love. When my mother moved to a Manhattan apartment, she was achieving a lifelong dream to live in the heart of a vibrant city. But what I saw was someone I cared for living in isolation 10-12 hours a day. Despite cordial social efforts, she could not meet a single person in her apartment building. She was physically and socially alone, and I could see the toll it had on her.

Even in a bustling city like Boston, where I live and work, the stats on loneliness are well researched and getting worse. In a 2018 loneliness study by Cigna, 46% of respondents said they sometimes or always feel alone; 47% feel left out. This study also concluded that “Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) and Millennials (adults ages 23-37) are lonelier and claim to be in worse health than older generations.”

As a founder and real estate technology executive, this personal and statistical information fuels my passion to power genuine community and create the best apartment living experience possible. Without social interaction, an apartment is only a place to exist for a portion of the day. But with meaningful experiences and lasting friendships, it becomes a home.

With loneliness on the rise and soon to reach epidemic proportions, building community, especially within apartment buildings — where millennials and Generation Z are the dominant renting population — is critical.

Considerable research is now going into solving the problem of loneliness through community in apartment buildings. It seems that fiscal value can be placed on friendships. The National Apartment Association housed a panel discussion about apartment communities in 2017. According to Laurie Lyons, U.S. Residential’s Executive VP of Client Services, people may be willing to pay up to an additional $200 monthly in order to live close to friends.

Not only will they pay more rent, but they will be inclined to stay longer because they are building networks and laying roots. That means less churn and fewer hours property managers would dedicate to filling vacant units. Community can be an incredible money and time saver, ultimately improving a building’s brand and bottom line.

Here are some ways you can assess and tackle loneliness as well as build community in your building:

• Connect: This can be as simple as being on a first-name basis with residents. Brene Brown, the renowned researcher of empathy, defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued.” When someone uses your first name, a connection is made. It’s a great starting point to helping people feel like they’re being seen.

• Converse: In some way, shape or form, talk to your residents. Whether that is in person or through open-ended surveys to encourage feedback, keep channels of communication open. Feeling heard and being heard are distinctly different, so make sure that when residents talk, the feedback you offer is actionable and executed.

• Collaborate: Connect with local partners and businesses who can help empower your residents to come out of their apartments and connect in your common spaces. Based on your conversations with residents, you can gauge interest in certain kinds of vendors and events to pique curiosity and engage residents in a way that can spark longer-lasting relationships.

• Contribute: When you coordinate an event in your building, show up to it, engage. Even the effort of being present and accessible can do wonders for how residents see a building’s ability to serve their needs in a physical and emotional way. If a building can supply interesting experiences that lead to residents meeting, connecting and then forming friendships, it’s the best of both worlds.

Wanting connection is a basic human tendency we all share. We are all capable of extending and receiving messages of welcome. The multifamily industry is uniquely positioned to step up and create a sense of belonging as a feature of all apartment buildings.

Just as physical amenity spaces became commonplace over the past decade and the convenience of services in multifamily is now the norm, experiences that bring communities together is the next wave. Focusing on community will not only improve building economics but also vastly improve apartment life for residents. Such community-focused buildings would have the greatest differentiating factor of them all: a base of residents with a passionate pride of place. Give residents a sense of community and they can become building advocates and brand ambassadors. I know that if my mother’s building had a community-focused environment, she would not dare think of living anywhere else.

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