I attended BISNOW’s (www.bisnow.com) Multifamily Annual Conference yesterday in Los Angeles. Although billed as a national conference (and attended by large, national owners and developers like Essex, UDR, MG Properties Trust, Lend Lease, CBRE), the focus for many of the discussions was the multi-family market in California. Oz Erickson from Emerald Fund pointed out that San Francisco has seen an 80 thousand increase in new jobs over the last four years but only a 10 thousand unit increase in apartments…similar (yet not as striking) numbers were presented for Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. This supply shortfall was blamed on a number of factors, including California’s CEQA regulations. You can Google “CEQA” for a rundown on the regulations and the lawsuits. Regardless of where you’re at on the political spectrum, the conclusions were clear: demand for multi-family units is soaring and the supply can’t keep up. From the millennials to the aging boomers who’ll be looking for senior housing options, the American suburb and the single-family house have lost some of their appeal. High walk-scores, work-life amenities and a more urban existence have replaced the green lawn as the desirable lifestyle. In fact, a new (to me) amenity was articulated: drone pad. Someone is expecting the Amazon drone deliveries to be sooner than expected I guess.
Some other information that was articulated (not confirmed, so take it with a grain of salt):
Home ownership is at a 48 year low; all-in build costs have doubled in San Francisco over the last 5 years; “adaptive re-use” appears to be an appealing answer to these high build costs; Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac will continue to be a dominant provider of capital to multi-family business (from Willy Walker of Walker and Dunlop).
The event ended with an excellent interview with Ethan Penner http://ethanpennermcap.blogspot.com/ who imparted some wisdom to would-be entrepreneurs gleaned after a mid-career burnout: find an unmet need; this will lead to a profit margin; profit margins = entrepreneur and employee joy; don’t ever retire. Seems like good advice to us.
It’s a fact CCRC providers know and know well. Studies show that Seniors who have more time with loved ones are simply healthier and happier than Seniors who are lonely. A huge part of the emotional battle for both Seniors and their loved ones in regards to moving into a CCRC, and changes like moving from Independent to Assisted Living, is the fear of being alone, or being forgotten and of losing touch with love ones. Offering property-wide Internet access, technology classes and device time for Seniors can help them to stay connected to family and friends, view more family photos, engage on social media and access more activities that will aid in emotional and physical well-being.
Technology has become a major contributor toward improving the quality of life of seniors living in CCRCs. In 2015 a provider who offers technology to residents in the form of property-wide WiFi, device usage or classes on social media/ how to use technology, is going to have a huge advantage over a community that either does not offer technology or leaves it up to the resident to set up their own technology. Families will be happy to know that their loved one’s new home will allow them to be connected online, have a way to access family pictures on Facebook, family blogs and email threads . Senior’s loved ones will also be happy to know that when going to visit their loved ones, children and grandchildren will have access to the technology they need to stay connected to work and family while visiting.
As for devices, WiFi enabled smartphones and tablets have truly simplified the process of using the Internet for all walks of life. The “app” model makes it easy for Seniors to access things like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Games, etc. by simply touching an icon. Another big benefit of seniors using WiFi and social media to stay connected is that the connection is real-time. While pictures are wonderful, they can also create a sense of melancholy as they are in the past, but social media is real-time and allows seniors to feel as though they are living in the moment with their loved ones.
One of the last residential industries to catch on to the installation of commercial-grade WiFi has been the Assisted and Senior Living industries, and understandably so. With a considerably higher age demographic than the typical MDU/ MTU, which caters primarily to millennials, managers of Senior and Assisted Living properties are starting to see a real demand from both residents and their families for commercial-grade WiFi as both an amenity. As more technologies that improve Senior Living operations become available, building owners have the ability to offset the cost of deploying WiFi by lowering operational cost and saving on energy usage.
According to an article from titled: “WiFi in Senior Living Becoming Necessary Investment” in Senior Housing News:
“Yet due to security concerns, a rising demand among residents, and an ongoing shift toward a host of web-based services designed to make senior living and care more efficient, providers are finding in some cases they can’t afford not to make the investment.”
- Some properties do attempt to self-install routers to simply offer WiFi access in property amenity areas so that they can provide Internet to families and residents, but this approach can be wrought with serious issues, lack adequate device support and can cause properties headaches that distract from property management duties:
- Security: WiFi security issues are very real and seniors are especially vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. It is important to have a WiFi network backed by UserSafe technology to ensure that users on the network are guarded against hacking and identity theft. Technologies, like UserSafe™, isolate each individual user on the network so that no other user can access their device or information. This means that shopping, banking, email and surfing are all safe guarded. This is not the case with a self-install WiFi router, even when password protected with encryption, users are still vulnerable and exposed.
- Support: Building owners that have attempted to self-install their own WiFi networks can attest to what a mess it can quickly become. WiFi is a technology that needs constant support, monitoring and maintenance to ensure a positive user experience. Spot On Networks has an in-house NOC (network operations center) that monitors the WiFi network 24/7 so that we are made aware of and can address a problem typically before the user even notices. This support is essential to property managers so they can focus on running their facility, not on WiFi problems.
- Wireless Operations Add-Ons: New wireless technologies are being geared towards improving operations at Senior Living facilities. Vitals, bed sensors, security systems, medication dispensers, patient tracking devices and energy management can now allow for wireless monitoring which allows for large operational savings and better operating efficiency. A commercial-grade network is essential to these technologies due to the need for continuous network monitoring.
- Resident and Family Demands: The senior population is getting more tech savvy by the minute and is showing the same rate of increase as the rest of the population. 59% of seniors 65+ are online and 71% of those are online every single day. In addition we are noticing more properties whose resident population wants WiFi access, not only for themselves, but for their visiting families. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren expect to have WiFi access everywhere – including when visiting relatives.
- WiFi Calling: New smartphones are being built with the ability to make calls over WiFi the same way that you would over the cellular networks. This is a huge plus for building owners who tend to have indoor cellular coverage issues inside their buildings. This technology is predicted to be the next game changer in the wireless industry and will allow for very inexpensive voice coverage to be delivered throughout a building. For residents and their families, having adequate indoor voice coverage is a necessity. Quality WiFi calling can only be obtained with a commercial-grade WiFi network with QOS and voice packet prioritization.
Image source: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/