Research article

Design and Operation

Student housing, multifamily and senior rental housing all share the same basic principles, but each is tailored to their residents’ requirements

A purpose-built residential building for rent is a very different proposition to a for-sale residential building. There is a greater emphasis on the provision of communal spaces and facilities. Fixtures and fittings need to be more durable to withstand tenant turnover. Proactive management is essential to the customer experience, and operational efficiencies are key.

Purpose-built residential buildings for rent share a number of core characteristics, regardless of who they are targeted at. They all feature communal spaces and shared amenities, together with residential units for rent. Here are the key distinctions:

Built to rent (multifamily)

For this type of building an appropriate mix of apartment sizes and types (with the local market in mind) are essential to support letting rates. Unit size and specification is more important than in the case of student housing. Larger units should be designed with sharers in mind, with bedrooms of equal size and positioned at opposite sides of the unit.

Senior housing

Senior housing usually offers larger communal areas, since these residents spend more time at the property. Extensive shared amenities and events programmes encourage social interaction. Additional services may be offered on an ‘à la carte’ basis. Aesthetically, individual units may look like any modern apartments, but with small adaptations to minimise risk from falls.

Student housing

Student housing unit sizes are smaller, usually in the form of cluster flats (ensuite bedrooms with access to a shared kitchen), or self-contained studios. Flexible study space is an important amenity, together with communal lounges, games rooms or gyms, depending on the price point. Large, well-equipped kitchens available for rent at additional cost have been trialled in some buildings, though associated management must be factored in (cleaning costs have proved to be particularly high).

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