Building Community in Rental Environments
The Key To SuccessBy Bob Koch, AIA. | Follow: Twitter & Facebook Housing communities seek a basic mission. The conspicuous objective is to provide shelter. For most, a larger agenda should also be sought; creating a community within which people of common means and geographic interest commune. To advance this broader vision, projects routinely embrace features and amenities that offer lifestyle opportunities for those within the development. The presumption suggests the resident, with opportunity to relax or recreate, will find greater community and more enjoyment while living there. It is clearly true the presentation of quality amenities selected for their appropriateness to the target market will advance initial appeal. Long-term satisfaction however relies more heavily on the cultivation of positive, personal acquaintances between residents than with features themselves. When surveys are conducted in rental housing to determine the principal reasons people choose to move or not to move, a common response emerges. Most who stay do so because they have made good friends within the development. These relationships had become a real part of the value of the place.Correspondingly, those who choose to leave generally do so because no such intrinsic bonds had been established. The temptation to move is less challenged. Many factors promote relocation such as changing economic ability, desire for more room, and a wish for something different. But all of these reasons will be deferred if the individual has found within the community, close friends that share active common interests. In resort destinations, where occupancy tenure is intentionally brief, making friends may appear an impossible task. The cruise industry however knows how to do it. Through a program of cultivating social interaction, even travelers on a 3-day excursion will be encouraged to meet, converse, recreate, dine and relax with their fellow passengers. When asked, most cruise travelers judge their experiences more by the quality of new acquaintances made than by the accommodation itself. Leasing (or selling) a multi-family product is a costly undertaking. It requires promotional investments and a never ending sales posturing. Keeping customers is more efficient in effort and resource particularly when the customer is paying you to advance that objective while a resident in the community. With this foundation in mind, project design and management would wisely consider ways to encourage the social interaction and the friendship building of their residents. The rewards can measurably affect the quality of the resident experience and the operational bottom line.