2019 National Multifamily Housing Council: Our Experts Recap Their Experts
The 2019 Annual Meeting of the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) commenced last month in San Diego, CA, and included the Apartment Strategies Outlook and the first ever Women’s Event. Combined, the NMHC achieved record-breaking attendance and delivered top-tier expertise and analysis to help builders, developers and others in the AEC industry refine their multifamily strategy in 2019 and beyond.
BSB Design’s own multifamily experts were in attendance, so we want to share a few gems from the treasure trove of information presented during the three-day schedule.
Teresa Bateman, Director of Architecture Development, BSB Design – Chicago, IL
Lots of press has focused on single family “built for rent” (BFR) homes. How do multifamily developers and the experts at NMHC see this trend impacting traditional rental communities?
We talked about this some, but it’s really not something we think will impact the multifamily rental world. Single family builders will be fighting that battle. Instead of just competing with resales, they’ll also compete with rental products. But the main reason for the increase in BFR projects is affordability, which is definitely commanding more and more attention from traditional multifamily developers, especially when municipal pressure is factored in. Co-habitable apartment designs were discussed at NMHC as affordability solutions. Similar to student housing, these units have shared common space but private baths and bedrooms large enough for a small kitchenette. It’s a unique way to design affordable units and actually taps into the social nature of younger renters.
Affordability seems to be top of mind for everyone in housing. What else are multifamily developers and operators doing to address affordability?
This is a true bright spot for multifamily, and value-add is going to get us there. NMHC is predicting that with a modest capital investment in a class B property, developers can achieve maximum stabilized rents and returns in just 5 years. As architects, we have to be ready to leverage what we’re doing in new construction to help retrofit these value-add projects with the lifestyle features and amenity spaces today’s renters expect. With new construction, developers are using some common cost containment measures to create more affordable rents: Above grade parking, higher density, reduction in average unit size, and full utilization of setback requirements. As long as these don’t dilute the design intent of the building or the units, we’re all for them!
John Abisch, Multifamily Project Architect, BSB Design – Charlotte, NC
Depending on which source you consult, the housing outlook for 2019 is either bad, stable, or good. Did anything at NMHC confirm or disprove your opinion about it?
NMHC always gives timely information about market trends, with attention to the ebb and flow of each cycle and detail about where the opportunity lies. I was very encouraged this year to hear confirmation from many land brokers about multifamily housing growth in the Southeast (where I live), Nashville, Texas, Denver, Phoenix and California. This growth in the multifamily sector correlates to anticipated and current declines in the single family markets in these same areas. We are seeing some of our single family builder clients asking us more and more about multifamily opportunities, as they are looking to diversify. With the stars aligned like this, even a first-time multifamily developer can minimize risk and make that first project a winner. And diversification can buoy a company through sales declines so they can continue to refine their bread and butter single family offerings.
The amenities war seems to have settled down of late. Did NMHC discuss any shifting trends in multifamily amenities that will inform your future designs?
As technology keeps changing so quickly, we believe that amenities need to continually shift to keep up. Developers are trying to remain adaptable to the everchanging industry, as today’s renters – particularly Millennials and Generation Z – are seeking different amenity experiences than we’re used to. Based on NMHC’s research, our designs will try to integrate social gathering spaces in unique ways. Our architectural and interiors team work together to tell a story on each project, and creatively link amenity spaces across the project. Quiet vs. active zones, WeWork suites, and other creative uses of common areas will get more attention from tomorrow’s prospective renters than extravagant, niche uses. Many of the amenity spaces we have designed in the past were single-purpose, but we are looking more and more at providing flex spaces that can adapt to multiple tenant activities.
Teresa Bateman is the Director of Architecture Development in the Chicago office. Bateman has worked extensively in construction and development, and her expertise spans all areas of the project process. She spent 34 years specializing in residential, multifamily and commercial developments. She held executive positions in design, government relations and procurement and managed preconstruction approvals, supply chain/contracting, purchasing, product development, and safety for multiple $125 million+ projects.
John Abisch is a Project Architect in our Charlotte office and has designed multifamily projects with various construction types and end uses, from five-story wood-frame condos and apartments to concrete and steel high rise buildings. This experience makes him a trusted resource for BSB Design’s clientele, and he contributes to the firm’s national business development efforts by representing the firm during client presentations across the country and at relevant industry events and trade shows.