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Affordable, B & C Properties Could See Package Surge

Package Surge

Package delivery volume could increase this year at affordable housing, B and C communities as a result of a discount offer made recently by Amazon.

The Amazon deal targets consumers with a valid EBT card, offering them a Prime membership for $5.99 per month, a drop from the standard $10.99 per month or $99 annual fee. Analysts suggest that the discount is designed to entice “Wal-Mart” shoppers and was crafted in response to the retail giant’s efforts to strengthen its e-commerce traffic.

Amazon says that nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population would qualify. Among those in that income category are persons using food stamp-based Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards and participants in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC).

Additionally, Prime membership includes a 20 percent discount on diapers and wipes subscriptions. Therefore, e-commerce could become an attractive option to low-income families seeking to save on gasoline costs for trips to and from retail centers or for the elderly, who do not have access to automobiles. Consumers averse to using credit cards also could benefit.

Renee Pulliam, CPM, CAPS, CAM, CGPM, HCCP, Senior Regional Property Manager, Community Housing Partners, Property Management, Richmond, Va., says that regardless of residents’ income levels, the popularity of online shopping is growing.

“Any company that will deliver their goods onsite is a convenience for residents,” Pulliam says. “So ultimately, this becomes a challenge for leasing offices. Typically, communities attempt to hold packages in the office in a secure area, but sometimes the volume is too much to handle. At some communities, we have stopped accepting packages, instructing our residents to have theirs dropped at their doorsteps.”

Tamara Longo, Senior Manager, Art Craft Management, says the convenience of services such as Amazon Dash and Hello Fresh will increase package delivery volume.
“When residents can literally push a button and have diapers, detergent or any number of household items immediately delivered to their door, the game is going to change,” Longo says.

Steve Minn, Vice President and Chief Financial Manager of Minneapolis-based Lupe Development, says affordable housing communities typically have far fewer onsite staff members than market-rate properties, therefore increases in package delivery is a concern.

“We attract a higher percentage of lower-income residents,” Minn says. “We are looking at including storage lockers in our property designs.”

Longo says increased package delivery to communities that do not manage the process onsite could lead to more resident complaints about package theft, regardless of whether it is a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit property.

Longo says, since November, her community has had four instances of residents reporting that their packages were misplaced or stolen from their doorsteps.

“Residents who have packages delivered to their door are responsible for handling them—not the onsite staff,” Longo says. “If they are instead having them delivered to the leasing office, there is usually a package acceptance addendum or verbiage in the lease, releasing the office of liability and responsibility.”

E-commerce growth is not occurring at some affordable housing properties. Says Mercy Housing National Director of Education Susan Sherfield, “Most of our communities do not accept packages for residents. I would doubt that many of our residents would spend their money on Prime, even at a reduced cost.”

Holli Beckman, Vice President Marketing and Leasing Operations, WC Smith, Washington, D.C., says the new Amazon deal could significantly increase package delivery at her properties.
“Use of Amazon lockers [could] gain traction,” Beckman says. “Many B or C properties in our market may not even have leasing offices—for example, we centrally process applications at our corporate office.”

Parcel Pending CEO Lori Torres says, “We are finding that package delivery issues are starting to happen at affordable housing communities. The Amazon [offer] will absolutely have an impact.”

Luxer One offers package lockers and automated package rooms for multifamily properties of all classes. Its Director of Marketing and Communications, Melody Akhtari, says, “Class A communities are using package acceptance as a marketable amenity. Meanwhile, B and C properties are adopting them as a retention tool. Having them keeps their residents happy.”