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Five Cross-Generational Development Trends

Student Apartment Developers

By Julie Skolnicki

The live-work-play housing model has always had a home on college campuses. Find out how student housing developers address space and sustainability.

Some issues that rental housing and mixed-use real estate developers are wrestling with are those that the student housing industry has been navigating daily for their privatized communities for a while.

Students want a new urbanist live-work-play lifestyle, and traditional apartment developers face the same issues when it comes to their current target demographics of Baby Boomers and Millennials.

Boomers (age 52-70) and Millennials (ages 20-35) make up 60 people of all consumers and are currently the highest percentages of renters. Millennials are transitioning from student housing to “young-professional housing,” while boomers are looking to downsize into “executive housing.”

Although different in many ways, these groups share values. They seek a work-life balance, sustainability and community mindedness. They’ve also defined and redefined housing since the 1960s, and they continue to shape the rental housing sector to this day. Here are key areas of interest that Boomers and Millennials share.

1. Mixed-Use: The college campus is the original model for live-work-play.

  • Students expect to walk to their academic, dining, social and recreational needs. Millennials and Boomers want to re-live the convenience and connectedness of that campus experience in their daily lives.
  • Experience-based retail is an attractive amenity for both groups. Dining, entertainment, fitness and other non-traditional storefronts available to residents and the broader community drives demand.
  • Women make 83 percent of all retail and residential decisions. This is true in both student housing and rental housing. Fifty-one percent of college grads are women and 51 percent of Boomers are women. They desire safety, convenience and connections. With this in mind, we need to re-think retail. A shift to healthy grocers and daycare facilities can drive leasing and retail velocity.

2. Sustainability: It matters to residents and it should provide savings to owners and operators.

  • Boomers and Millennials are committed to sustainability and expect it as part of their residential choices. Whether it is recycling programs, ENERGY STAR appliances, programmable thermostats or sustainably sourced electricity, both groups are cognizant of their impact on the environment and it influences their spending choices.
  • They have a long-term view of the world through their children and grandchildren’s eyes and value a sustainable lifestyle, which includes energy and water efficiency. Both groups want their homes to reflect their desire for a more sustainable future. 

3. Parking: Reconsider standard parking ratios.

  • Millennials do not rely on cars as much as previous generations do. With the rise of ride-sharing, some Millennials don’t even consider car ownership as a priority. They are focused on living in places that allow them to commute to work on public transportation and bikes and through ride-sharing.
  • Boomers are looking for convenience, safety and healthy options for transportation. In fact, Boomers are using more technology than ever before, using Uber and Lyft. With more Boomers moving to cities, they are eschewing the family car for alternative transportation options, which means parking space is less important to them.

4. Efficiency: Efficient design means more units, more density and more revenue.

  • Affordable luxury seems like a contradiction, but first-year residence halls and grad-housing micro-units provide lessons in value creation. Well-designed, efficient units with premium finishes, supported by a community focused mixed-use environment, are more desirable than extra square footage.
  • Millennials and Boomers alike are looking for ways to simplify their lives. That means efficient use of space and integrated technologies are a must.

5. Neighborhood Creation: Placemaking and community space are the ultimate amenity.

  • Great student housing communities are designed to break down the scale of a large campus and encourage students to create their own community and make life-long friends. Both Boomers and Millennials are looking for that same placemaking where they can break down the scale of a larger city and create neighborhood connections.

Julie Skolnicki is Senior Vice President of University Partnerships for EdR.