The architects of mid-20th century America had only the best intentions, but considering their legacy includes sterile shopping malls, crowded cubicles, and intimidating tenement buildings, you have to wonder if they realized their designs were lacking the liveliness that turns a residential space into a home. However, old mistakes mean modern opportunities, and a housing developer who can provide an attractive apartment complex for the crucial yet chronically overlooked low-income urban housing market likely won’t have to worry about a shortage of tenants.
One major problem with the old brick and concrete tenements is their blocky, monolithic appearance. Since they’re the same from top to bottom they look too repetitive to be appealing, and once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Not only that, but the residents are all painfully aware that they’re getting the exact same mass-produced living space as everyone else around them.
However, while most people admire the idea of fairness, they also secretly hope for preferential treatment, and so asymmetrical designs are appealing both to passersby and to prospective tenants. The lack of uniformity creates a shape which the eye is willing to linger on (and which city planners are more likely to accept), and having a variety of floor plans gives landlords the ability to offer different sizes and prices to different tenants. With the right rent discounts, even tenants who choose the smallest apartments will be able to think they’re getting the better deal.
Another issue with blocky tenements is the shortage of communal areas where tenants can gather and meet with their fellows. If a building lacks neutral ground for the residents to form acquaintances and friendships, it’s all too easy for the families and individuals who live in it to feel isolated despite being surrounded by others.
As such, you can make an apartment building or complex far more appealing by providing a few common areas like a small workout center, laundromat, restaurant, and vegetable garden. Not only does this look good on the brochures, it also gives your residents the chance to turn their individual homes into a community.
Building for low-income tenants may seem unappealing compared to the kind of rents you can charge for high-income housing, but what the low-income market lacks in available funds it more than makes up for in volume. And while a low-income tenant won’t make a fuss about inexpensive materials and simple designs, a little consideration can go a long way towards making sure you’re always at capacity.