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Charlotte Rental Housing: Multi-family Developments shifts building designs during Pandemic

Charlotte Rental Housing: Multi-family Developments shifts building designs during Pandemic

Spring 2020 brought about a dip in the real estate market, clearly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay at home orders that followed.  Multifamily development in North Carolina has been impacted, as well, but the long-term effects are still yet to be determined.  Innovation during these times is key, and adjustments to design are aiding in the long-term future of multifamily developments in a post-pandemic environment.

Slowed construction throughout this spring is expected to pick up because long-term growth will remain strong and developers are adapting to changes in market conditions and design. Before the spring, demand for multifamily was strong with construction costs rising due to demand.

During the pandemic, fewer renters were searching for new places to live, causing rents to decline and developers wondered about demand for future multifamily construction.

Fortunately, the downturn in rents was short-lived and search activity was back to normal by May when stay at home orders were eased.  However, rental prices may take a little longer to return.  Renters searching for a new place to live is certainly impacted by the employment market not offering great confidence.

The growing job market in Charlotte draw young professionals and other out-of-town workers seeking employment. High-end properties have been largely unscathed by the pandemic as upper-income renters kept their jobs and remained current with their payments. Properties with less expensive rents have been hit by defaults as renters fell behind on payments due to reduced incomes or lost jobs.

As working from home becomes the norm and everyone has learned to do Zoom or Skype, people have realized that they could be an hour or more away from the city center and be as productive as they were before the pandemic.  Walkability to shops and restaurants became less of a priority over an office space and room to spread out.

Because contractors are essential workers, multifamily construction continued during the state’s stay-at-home order with safety measure adjustments.  The pandemic not only changed the way buildings are constructed during a pandemic, but also the design and livability in a post-pandemic world.  Multifamily developments increasingly incorporate features that address priorities like social distancing, remote working and touchless technology.

Many have already implemented central postal locations, package locker systems, key fob doors, security cameras and considerable wi-fi technology.

Amenity spaces may become larger as well to allow for more distancing between residents, increasing the costs of future projects as a result.  Other design options include workspaces like home offices, fold-down tables, patios or mezzanines in its new units to accommodate the work-from-home trend.

Other design changes could include:

  • Breaking large amenity spaces into smaller co-working spaces.
  • Increasing unit sizes as residents spend more time at home.
  • Improving technology for doors and elevators to reduce touch points between residents’ cars and units.
  • Including neutral zones at the entrances of units where residents can put possibly contaminated items before entering the living space.
  • Adding mechanical alcoves that would let maintenance workers service a unit’s HVAC system without entering.

In addition, showing properties virtually and disinfecting common spaces regularly to stop the spread of Covid-19 have become the norm. Surfaces that may have been cleaned once a day, like elevator buttons, have been treated three or four times.

Unfortunately, many amenities like pools and gyms remain closed to protect employees and residents. Green space is increasingly important to provide opportunities for residents to exercise.

No doubt, the ever-changing world we live in will continue to evolve, but immediate design changes are being implemented with thoughts for the future in mind.  Demand for housing in Charlotte will continue to be on the rise, as we are fortunate to still have a growing economy, but planning ahead is key as developers understand the immediate needs of our city’s residents.

Written by Laura Grant