Oh, those millennials.
They are so rebellious, so early-adopting, so downright innovative that it gets hard to keep up when you’re trying to build housing to attract and keep millennials.
Born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, millennials have been known for their tendency to veer away from the choices of preceding generations in ways that are dictating change in nearly every industry – and multifamily housing is no different. Young people today are more satisfied with renting than were their predecessors, and more willing to pay for what they want, but more demanding about what they want in their living spaces. One of the newest needs: Dedicated workspaces.
“This generation, who is always on the go, needs a well-designed place to land for either a client meeting or a place to spread their work outside of the confines of their apartment,” said Jules Escalona, Straight Designs Art Director, in an interview with Multi-Housing News. “It’s quite evident that the old 9-to-5 cubicle is transforming more into satellite mobile type of positions and they need various great amenity spaces to socialize and work within.”
Straight Design recently renovated Ely Spring Valley in Las Vegas, a luxury apartment complex that includes, among other amenities, “open-concept lounges and lobbies that can also perform as communal workspaces.
“Business centers that were once tucked away in overlooked corners have now taken center stage as a premium amenity catering to digital nomads,” Escalona said. The spaces include tables that accommodate laptops, seating that accommodates individuals or groups, and easily accessible charging ports.
Young renters often desire close-in neighborhoods that mean they don’t necessarily have to own a car; they are willing to rent smaller homes or loft-style apartments in exchange for prime location. Because of this, multifamily housing amenities are moving beyond the pool and fitness center to include storage areas (especially for bicycles) and shared spaces that expand the square footage residents can use on a daily basis. They are likely to use ride-sharing services when they can, and often prefer to frequent coffee-shops and co-working spaces when they need to meet with others.
“Some believe millennial renters don’t view their homes the way earlier generations did,” writes real estate correspondent Jeffrey Steele for Forbes. “Trend spotters say many consider their apartment their bedroom, the restaurant on the first floor their kitchen, the bar a block away their recreation room and the park a quarter mile distant their backyard. They are willing to sacrifice space in their individual units as long as these options are available, and their apartment buildings also offer appealing co-working and co-living spaces ideally designed for socialization.”
Michael R. Ytterberg is an architect at Philadelphia-based BLT Architects. He wrote an article in 2015 for Building Design + Construction that emphasized the millennial need for communal spaces.
“The lobby should be open and situated like a lounge, evoking the feeling of an extended hangout space,” Ytterberg wrote. “In addition to lobbies, public space is a necessity in attracting millennials. Internet lounges within the building where residents and can bring their laptops, as well as rooms that people can rent out for parties, are attractive to renters.”
There’s another thing valued by millennials that may surprise builders who are used to producing neutral, offend-nobody spaces: Art and color.
“The younger generation loves designs that have a lot of flavor,” Escalona says. “Art plays a huge part, and this can be implemented in many different ways – from gallery walls showcasing an eclectic and humorous mix to vivacious wallpaper or sensual 3D paneling. You can’t get away with a collection of abstracts anymore.”
The generation’s affinity for redefining their surroundings to fit their lifestyles – especially in the areas of technology, home and work – makes building for them a constantly moving target.
“Millennials are not only renting more often than buying, but they are also renting for much longer periods of time than previous generations,” Ytterberg said. “With so many choices available, they have become much more particular when it comes to having the right amenities and living space.”