Many students living on campus in dormitories went home when colleges closed due to stay-at-home orders. But some living in off-campus student housing decided to shelter-in-place – in the apartments that had become their homes for the school year.
As with so many things related to the novel coronavirus, having students living in apartments when school is out poses unique challenges landlords and developers have never had to face before. How can you keep your tenants safe in off-campus housing when school is closed?
Close Indoor Amenities to Keep Residents Safe
As a student housing landlord, the health and safety of your tenants is first on your mind. Closing indoor amenities, including study rooms and fitness centers, can help keep your residents safe from the virus.
Larger real estate investment trusts and developers such as MAA, Greystar, Cortland, and others have closed their amenities. As the world takes social distancing measures to “flatten the curve” and keep the virus from spreading too quickly, it’s crucial to take appropriate steps. You can’t necessarily count on your residents to make responsible choices about public gatherings.
Consider Establishing Times for Tenants to Visit Common Areas
Of course, you can’t close down certain areas like the laundry room and mailroom. And you may even opt to keep the study center open to give students access to the technology available. For any public spaces remaining open, consider assigning specific times for residents to enter.
In much the same way desert regions practice water conservation by allowing people to water lawns on specific days based on their street address, you can assign times or days of the week students can use certain amenities. For instance, students in even-numbered apartments can visit the laundry room on Mondays and Wednesdays, and students in odd-numbered apartments can enter on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Encourage Social Distancing in Outdoor Areas
As people begin to acknowledge the importance of focusing on mental health through the pandemic, it is important to give tenants access to places to decompress outside the four walls of their apartment.
Walkways, bike trails, gardens, and outdoor natural spaces can – and should – be kept open. Consider placing signage to remind people to remain at a safe distance – six feet apart. You might also consider removing picnic tables or closing off basketball courts to discourage gatherings.
Revisit Cleaning Processes of Public Spaces
Just as grocery stores and pharmacies have reduced their hours to permit proper time to clean and disinfect their stores, you may have to limit the hours indoor and outdoor amenities are open. Public spaces – both indoors and out – should be disinfected every day – or even more frequently if they get a lot of traffic.
Host Virtual Activities to Stay Connected as a Community
Of course, student housing developers rely on activities and gatherings as a key differentiator to help their student housing stand out. These gatherings foster a sense of community and connection – both to the college and the greater student body, as well as to those within their student housing development.
In this time of social distancing, we need that connection more than ever. Virtual activities may help students resist the temptation of gatherings within their apartments. Seek out live concerts streamed on TikTok or YouTube and invite residents to tune in for a virtual watch party. You can even set a theme and distribute fun decorations, props, or food.
If you know local artists – including musicians who live in your student housing development – you can host your own virtual concert. Musicians can use Facebook Live, Twitch, YouTube or any streaming platform to present a concert and keep tenants entertained.
You can also organize virtual games for students through a videoconferencing platform. Your students may already be playing games like Heads Up! or trivia through an app like Houseparty. But you can use technology to turn game night into a development-wide event, giving tenants a chance to meet new people and connect with classmates outside their immediate social circle.
We are all hoping to a quick end to the pandemic and social distancing rules. Until then, you can help keep your tenants safe by offering virtual activities to keep boredom at bay, disinfecting properly, and encouraging responsible behavior across your community.