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The Three Things that Can Hamper Multifamily Innovation

The apartment industry has long been painted as one that’s afraid of change and reluctant to embrace new ways of doing things.

That may have been true in the past, but when I look at multifamily today and the MICA session lineup, I see an industry brimming with ingenuity and an entrepreneurial spirit.

Across the country, investors, operators and supplier partners are exploring a wide array of innovations to improve the resident experience and increase revenue. They’re implementing smart-home solutions, short-term rentals, self-guided tours, hotel-like resident services and increasingly sophisticated fitness amenities, to name just a few examples.

But in looking at the industry, I do see three factors in play that often inhibit multifamily innovation and growth. Those factors are:

1) Government policy. I’m not here to make grand pronouncements about government being anti-business. However, from time to time, local, state and federal laws can – albeit unintentionally – stifle innovation.

Take the growing number of rent-control laws, for example. When jurisdictions put a cap on rent, that limits the financial incentive to reinvest in and modernize portfolios.

Similarly, some apartment communities may be reluctant to incorporate short-term rentals because the laws in their area may subject them to expensive hospitality taxes.

It’s important for multifamily owners and operators, whether on their own or through an association, to speak up when laws and policies work against their interests and hamper their ability to innovate at their properties. 

2) The lack of integration among technological solutions. It has to be easier to integrate individual multifamily technologies into any other technology solution. When owners and operators can’t easily assemble a group of solutions that are able to seamlessly work with each other, it really hampers the evolution of our industry.

Moving forward, apartment technology providers need to place a real emphasis on developing solutions that play nice with other tools in a way that is efficient and easy.

3) Company cultures. Yes, multifamily has a real entrepreneurial and forward-thinking component to it these days. But many operators remain tethered to the old ways of doing business.

Make a point of fighting against that inertia. Attend industry conferences and events to learn about new ways of doing things. Pick the brains of your colleagues.

Create a company culture in which team members are empowered to explore new procedures and technologies and to voice constructive feedback when established processes aren’t working or have grown outdated. Tell your team they don’t have to put up with the status quo if the status quo isn’t working, and innovation will follow.

This is truly a very exciting time to be in the multifamily industry. There is an unprecedented commitment to driving innovation and creating the best experiences possible for residents and prospective renters. But there are dynamics that work against ingenuity, and apartment companies to be aware of them.


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