Lori Ann Dinkins: Making Student Housing Future Proof

All aspects of the student housing industry are smack dab in the middle of a cultural shift that has many names — circular economy, collaborative consumption, shared capitalism. Being future proof isn’t about what tile to use or even buzzing about trending amenities. Becoming future proof is the adoption of a business mindset that is driven by the consumer, developed for the consumer and contributes to the consumer economy. Residents don’t want to just live in an apartment — they want to be participants in their living experience. If you don’t get the difference, read on. This not-so-subtle rewording of a sentence is the driving force behind becoming future proof, and considering the following trends can put your property ahead of the curve.  

The Amazon Effect: the ongoing evolution and disruption of the retail market. The Amazon Effect has reset consumer expectations by shifting the balance of power in favor of consumers. This instant gratification economy demands a real-time and personalized purchasing experience. The new normal puts a lifestyle focused, flexible and highly personalized apartment as important as location and layout. Turns out, residents want their leasing experience to be similar to how they buy as an individual consumer. They want any transaction to be three clicks or less. Question: do your residents have the capability to pay rent using Venmo? 

Collaborative Consumption: customers will pay for access over ownership . With this disruption of ownership in mind, designers are preparing to overhaul living, study and leisure environments with this notion of sharing as motivation. In addition, ride sharing, electric and driverless cars are challenging parking assumptions. Industry leaders will need to adapt to fluctuating parking needs and an increasingly diverse range of mobility options because access is the driving motivation in collaborative consumption ideology. Question: does your property have a well lit designated area with signage for ride share pick up? 

Blending Space: the curated mix of housing, hospitality and retail space designed to produce vibrancy. Industry wide, the lines are becoming blurred between hospitality, retail and home. The blending of hotel and apartment or retail and apartment results in additional revenues for the owners and an engaged marketplace for the residents. In addition, adaptability in physical components of community construction will be increasingly valued. The divide between public and private space is narrowing, requiring apartment communities to be more integrated into the fabric of the surrounding community. Question: do you have a plan to incorporate retail or hospitality in your communities (i.e. grab-n-go convenience). 

Entrepreneurial Design: the integrative loop among innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development. This is absolutely relevant to the student housing industry because mobile technology, digital education, and increasing participation in the gig economy are disrupting where and for how long people are connected. Residents are expecting to have the infrastructure associated with offices, such as access to property-wide mobility, connectivity, privacy and co-working spaces, provided within their communities. Question: Does your property offer residents a multi-media space (i.e. Skype room)? 

The student housing industry is positioned to address future proofing as a collaborated effort. Because innovation leads to a future proof community, we are all challenged to go further. 

Lori Ann Dinkins, director of marketing and business development at We Are Stellar Designs | SouthPark Interiors.