2008-10-02, 08:47

Non-Traditional Households are on the Rise - The Impact on Owners and Managers

By: Multifamily Real Estate Industry Team

Recently released census data, known as the American Community Survey (ACS), indicates that “non-traditional” households headed by single men and single women will continue to rise. http://www.builderonline.com/demographics/the-rise-of-non-traditional-households.aspx According to the Census data, “non-family” households totaled 37 million. The ACS Census data covers the social, economic and housing characteristics of the nation’s population.

Researchers at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University project that between 2010 and 2020, the number of unmarried householders with children is projected to increase from 11.0 million to 11.8 million. “Married couples are a shrinking share of American households…Several trends have contributed to this shift, including higher labor force participation rates for women, delayed marriage, high divorce rates, low remarriage rates, and greater acceptance of unmarried partners living together. The resulting growth in unmarried-partner, single-parent and single person households has increased the share of adults in all age groups heading independent households.”

How will the apartment industry be impacted by the decreasing number of households with married couples? Stated differently, how should multifamily developers, asset and property managers change the communities they develop and/or rehabilitate, as well as their approach to managing those communities, to most effectively target the needs of these increasing numbers of non-traditional households?

Here are some suggestions:

  • To differentiate their communities and address this changing resident constituency, owners and managers should focus on offering amenities and ancillary services required by non-traditional households, such as increased after-school programs, dog walking, grocery shopping, dry cleaning, house cleaning and on-site concierge services.
  • Resident selection criteria should be re-evaluated to address the differing circumstances presented by “non-traditional household” rental applicants, with any proposed changes in selection criteria being carefully scrutinized to avoid jeopardizing the integrity of the asset.
  • Property management professionals should be trained to “sell” to the non-traditional households and to focus on their particular needs and circumstances.
  • From a development perspective, unit designs should incorporate the needs of the non-traditional family – with the objective of enabling the owner to offer unique floor plans and associated pricing points.

The reality for most people is that they are looking for a home, not a house or an apartment. Given these changing demographics, to stay ahead of the curve, owners and managers should focus on how to best offer non-traditional households the specific services, amenities and unit designs that mesh with their needs and lifestyles.

(This entry was posted by Pamela V. Rothenberg, a member of the Womble Carlyle Real Estate Development Group and Kelly Treesh, President of Multfamily Consulting, LLC, http://multifamilyconsulting.com/pages/1/index.htm)


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