From air quality to energy efficiency, healthy housing is a growing concern among renters nationwide that has been made more prominent over the past couple of years as a result of the response to COVID-19.
For the multifamily housing industry, this trend creates the need for building products and methodologies that address various risks related to health, safety and accessibility, according to our recent joint study with the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Adapting your production development process and marketing strategy can set your company apart as multifamily developers and architects seek to integrate healthy housing design concepts in a post-pandemic world where renters have increased desires for health and wellness.
Have Healthy Housing Issues Changed Among Renters?
While renters have become increasingly mindful of healthy housing—especially among younger tenants and those with children—their concerns have evolved since our study in 2018.
For example, according to our 2021 study, at least 10 percent of renters have major concerns about health impacts and/or risks related to their rental housing, compared to just 3 percent in 2018. About 44 percent have moderate or major concerns about the health, safety or accessibility of their dwelling, while 10 percent feel some aspect of their home has negatively impacted an occupant or posed a risk.
What has changed in the past couple of years is the type of concerns rising to the surface. In 2021, indoor air quality was of utmost importance for renters, with more than 50 percent identifying it as a primary healthy housing concern. In comparison, water quality and flooding, moisture or mold was a primary concern for about 32 percent of renters, while damage from natural disasters and indoor noise between rental units and floors were both about 14 percent.
Over the past year, the attention on air quality has been driven by concern of contamination by bacteria or viruses, followed by managing household dust; mitigating air pollutants, odors and smoke from outdoors; lack of sufficient ventilation; and decreasing air pollutants, odors or smoke from within the building, such as a neighboring unit or the hallway.
What are the Most Common Healthy Home Projects, Products and Services?
As air quality takes centerstage in the healthy housing realm, renters have a desire for both remodeling projects that can help address this particular concern as well as the incorporation of health-conscious building products and materials into their apartment or multifamily housing units. Existing landlords and new investors in the space would be keen to address these trends with their property managers.
According to our study, renters want to see indoor air quality improvements, whether that be a monitoring system; ventilation control systems; moisture control membranes and sealing; or whole-house air exchangers, filtration and purifiers.
However, energy efficiency and weatherization are also major concerns among renters nationwide. More than 40 percent of renters stated that they currently do not but would like to have general air sealing and insulation; advanced whole-house insulation; updated ventilation control systems; high-efficiency HVAC components; and energy efficient appliances, windows and doors within their rental units.
Residents became increasingly aware of a few other health, lifestyle and safety issues in residential projects as a result of the pandemic, and they are likely to linger in the years to come.
In particular, tenants have a desire for more dedicated outdoor spaces at their rental building—even simple additions, like a balcony—as well as increased distinction between indoor spaces to mitigate noise among household members and allow for studying or working at home.
Marketing Building Materials and Services for Multifamily Housing Projects
As residents rethink apartment and multifamily unit living in terms of health and space, developers and architects are adapting their considerations accordingly for new developments, while more landlords and management companies may consider remodeling projects that also address these concerns.
This is especially important since, within the past year, approximately 66 percent of renters or one of their household members moved or seriously considered moving from a rental unit because of a healthy housing concern and 26% of renters moved or considered moving 1-2 years ago due to a healthy housing concern.
As you strategize about product development or determine how to cater your messaging toward architects, contractors and developers to increase rates of specification in multifamily development projects, it’s not enough to keep tenants’ healthy housing concerns in mind. It’s also important to consider the roadblocks faced by professionals involved in multifamily housing remodeling projects and investor-managed housing developments.
One issue is transparency. Architects want to know what is in the building products they choose and how those materials will affect human health and wellbeing. However, they also have time constraints for each project they design and face the need to quickly progress forward in this digitized age.
To make yourself a valuable partner in this process, you can do some of the legwork for architects and contractors, who are under the constant pressures of time and budget. As part of your messaging, be transparent and give them the necessary data they need regarding the performance criteria of your building materials. In other words, make it an easy choice for them by sharing technical product specifications on your website or via your representatives and explaining how your products contribute to designing healthier environments.
In this way, you can increase the integration of your construction materials into multifamily development projects and help the professionals involved make small but significant changes to address the current health, safety and wellbeing concerns of today’s renters.
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