Despite countless articles, conferences, and thought leaders promising the next quarter’s positive outlook in the multifamily industry, do you ever wonder … “Is multifamily resisting innovation?”

In today’s business world, there’s a new standard of innovation and social responsibility that is being fast-adopted by corporations and spawning other industries (think Silicon Valley). It’s a business orientation that’s characterized by questions like:

  • How can we use technology to make people’s lives easier?
  • In what ways can we streamline processes to make them more efficient?
  • How can we reduce our impact on the environment/benefit society?
  • How can we do all these things AND still be profitable?

This orientation to business has yet to permeate the multifamily industry. Notice I said yet.

The Future of Multifamily Residents

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Millennials (18- to 34-year-olds) are the ones who are leading the charge in innovation and social/environmental responsibility. They also happen to be multifamily’s most coveted demographic. Not far behind them are the up-and-coming Gen Zs (under 18 years old), who are demanding the same business standards and then some. Together, these two demographics make up the future of multifamily residents.

Studies show they value convenience, efficiency, sustainable business practices, customer service, and personal relationships. Yet, instead of adopting a long-term business strategy that aligns with these values, many multifamily industry leaders are merely focusing on the short term.

Then What?

In a panel called “Residence of the Future,” the panelists were asked why multifamily was slow to integrate mobile technology. The response: “If maintenance can’t fix it, then you become tech support. Then what?”

In a recent blog post, Mobile Doorman mulled over that phrase, “Then what?” Despite the emerging demand for technology, there’s a hesitance to supply because it would wreak havoc on the short term, the blog reads. Rather, their strategy for innovation was to prepare for amenity trends: Avoid any high-capital amenities (e.g., movie theaters) and design versatile common spaces that can accommodate the “next great amenity.”

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Another innovative mind in the space is Brice Leconte, the mastermind behind iUnit, the world’s first “socially active, smart apartment unit.” Not only is iUnit designed to be fully compatible and controllable with smart devices, but it aims to achieve a Net-Zero energy level through alternative energy sources. However, some in the industry may poke and prod at the business strategy behind iUnit, pointing out the resistance it would face throughout the adoption phase.

Is the iUnit concept extreme? Perhaps. Is it risky? Yes, but it aligns with the lifestyles and values of future multifamily residents. It’s a strategy for long-term business growth, and yet the concept finds relevance in today’s market.

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Why Mess With the Model?

In all fairness, it’s easy to see why there would be resistance to innovation, especially now. The multifamily industry is booming. Lease-ups are at 98 percent. If the market’s good, why would we mess with the model?

Because the market won’t be good forever. History shows, every peak is followed by a valley. In these good times, industry efforts have become stagnant, even lazy. Eventually, however, we’ll all wake up from this multifamily dream, and the industry as a whole will be scrambling to understand their residents, redefine their company culture, and so on.

“The adoption and integration of technology into [multifamily] is charging ahead at a breakneck pace and figuring it out is going to be messy and painful, for sure. But for those who do, the rewards will be significant. Then what?” — Mobile Doorman


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