Multifamily Blog Round Up!

Let’s see what’s happening this week in the Multifamily blogs!

On the MultFamily Insiders blog, Jonathan Saar brings up the question of what apartment managers should strive for with a Facebook page.

In his April 20th post, “Facebook’s Impact on Multifamily Part III- Engagement or Participation?” he asks whether striving for “engagement” over “participation” is splitting hairs. Most pages naturally start out with participation, he asserts; participation is where people “Like” your posts, or comment, whereas “engagement,” by contrast, only begins when participation spins off into actions or conversations either in the real world or elsewhere online (e.g. email).

Juleen is on board with those who say an apartment manager’s goal for his or her Facebook page should be to strive specifically for engagement. The intention of most apartment managers is to create conversations, and be a great resource for residents; in real life, a manager’s spoken conversations with residents would lead to actions. So, Juleen asserts, there’s no reason we shouldn’t have the same expectations of our virtual (Facebook) conversations, too.

MultiHousing News covered a trendsetter in modular construction.

According to MHN, a recent Seattle expo demo’d the products of Sustainable Living Innovations, or SLI, a custom multifamily housing product created by architectural firm CollinsWoerman. Arlan Collins, a principal at the firm, said the SLI prefab construction elements halve the labor required to build a structure, and eliminate 2/3 of onsite labor activity. The company uses steel and concrete rather than wood, which typical modular products use (steel and concrete are more appropriate for dense, urban housing settings, fit better in constrained spaces, and have twice the lifespan of wood).

SLI evolved out of Collins’s observation that multifamily development projects usually take 3 years to realize; his goal became to cut that time requirement in half. That allowed builders to quickly respond to demand for apartments, while giving investors the security of a shorter timeline.

SLI is the only pre-fab housing product system that can be used for buildings taller than mid-rise. And unlike regular modular homes, SLI products are also customizable; a developer using SLI in different parts of the country who wished to can alter the floor-to-ceiling heights depending on each building’s environment could do so.

Collins likens SLI to an erector set: parts are built to specification elsewhere, then shipped to the site, eliminating the warehouse step required in modular construction, offering subsequent savings on road time and gas costs and associated carbon emissions. It remains to be seen what construction crews will have to say at the news that their labor needs can be halved by this promising new product, which Collins called a “game changer”. But according to the article, most of the public who toured the full-scale model units left impressed with both the space and the quality of the buildings.

MultiHousing News also brought us the rather stunning report that a quarter of U.S. renters spend over half of what they make on rent and utilities, according to a study by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The study also found that another 25 percent of U.S. renters spend between 30 and 50 percent on rent and utilities.

The rule of thumb used to be to spend no more than ¼ of what you make on where you live. But in the last decade, rents and utility costs have been rising, while relative renter income rates have been falling. That combo has put renters in a pickle, especially given that relatively few new apartments are being built, and more new renters—20-somethings, foreclosed homeowners—are entering the market. Ack! In high-cost cities, rental affordability could soon be an oxymoron for many. At a conference on the study’s findings, some speakers suggested the government should loosen regulations and let affordable developers and renovators take to the stage. Others insisted the government could fund housing programs and develop more fair income curves to increase affordable housing access to respond to the problem.

The National Apartment Association says heads up: Craigslist will be charging for apartment listings soon. Citing multiple multifamily housing ad experts as their source, NAA says that, based on a pay-per-post model’s success in reducing illegitimate postings in the New York City listings, the practice is probably coming soon to a large urban market near you—especially if you’re in a large urban market that’s “beset with spamming issues” (as New York was). Experts predict that in the next 18 months the top 25 major sales areas for apartments can be expected to shift, with the entire nation following within 3 years. I issue a battle cry to all you spammers out there: your days are numbered, fiends!

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