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The three amenities that will matter most after COVID-19

As any leasing agent, operator, or developer will tell you, a great apartment offers renters more than just a place to lay their head at night. Over the past decade, Class A buildings have steadily competed with each other to offer residents the best and shiniest in amenities, from the standard community lounge to resort-style spaces and recreation.

However, as COVID has changed our relationships to our homes, it’s also changed how we operate in our spaces and what we use them for, leading to a shift in the amenities renters now prioritize. We took a deeper dive into the biggest changes in amenity preferences over the past year, looking at leasing feedback, design trends, and our own plans for 2021 and beyond.

The spaces residents value

Before COVID: Open shared space
After COVID: More WFH space

Pre-COVID, designers and architects were creating spaces designed for community gatherings, with work-from-home capabilities as a welcome but underthought feature. These spaces tended to be large and open, with couches, kitchens, televisions, and a communal table for eating or working on a laptop. Due to the recent increase in remote work, residents now need a private space beyond their bedroom to take conference calls and get focus work done.

Especially in coliving, where living rooms might be shared with multiple roommates, privacy can’t end at a bedroom door. While community lounges will still be appreciated extensions of a renter’s apartment, features like phone booths or small conference rooms will prove to be more valuable in their day-to-day lives.

Easily accessible

Before COVID: Easy access to public transportation
After COVID: Easy access to parks and outdoor recreation

The average American used to spend 4.35 hours a week commuting to and from work. Subsequently, proximity to the subway made a huge difference in the quality of a resident’s life: would they have to walk 25 minutes through the rain to stand on a crowded train and make multiple transfers, or were they a few blocks from an easily connected express line? While remote work has made access to public transportation less important for renters, it’s been replaced with a new convenience: access to parks and outdoor recreation.

Not only does greenspace provide a valuable refuge from city life, parks make taking a break from the confines of your apartment easier without sacrificing safety. As public spaces, parks also allow residents to easily form communities outside of their homes: through volunteering, visiting a farmers market, or joining an extra-mural sports league. Projects like the Highline in New York City, the Beltline in Atlanta, and the 606 in Chicago also provide alternative routes to crowded sidewalks and traffic.

Looking beyond the building

Before COVID: Cruise-ship style amenities
After COVID: Affordability and local community

Golf simulators, indoor pools, state-of-the-art movie rooms — among Class A buildings, the most prized amenities used to be the ones that allowed residents to access the entertainment of city life without leaving their homes. According to Jenn Chang, Common’s Creative Director, we might see a shift from these “cruise ship style” amenities that lead to higher rents, towards an overall focus on both affordability and local community:

“If we’re spending less time commuting, we will need to find other ways to get outside in our daily routines. This means that our willingness to travel outside our building for recreation will increase, and we might prefer a 5 minute walk, bike, or drive to the gym instead of staying in our building all day long. This a great opportunity to leverage community and neighborhood building efforts, instead of just cramming more luxuries inside residential buildings.”

By engaging with the local community to provide residents with opportunities for entertainment outside of the home, like Common does with our community events and Perks program, developers can keep rents low while still adding value to their residents lives.

The future of residential amenities

Is COVID the end of cabana lounges, movie rooms, and lobby coffee shops? Probably not, but developers and operators must be willing to adapt to and consider post-COVID life when designing and marketing their homes. This includes spatial and financial considerations, along with an increased importance in strong shared WiFi — it should be considered as important as hot water.

The changes won’t be unrecognizable (don’t expect permanent plastic partitions as the way of the future) but they will be key in maintaining affordability and meeting the real needs of today’s renters.

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