Renting to college students comes with plenty of challenges. College is a time of transition, confusion, and possibility and the whole experience is much easier when students are well-connected to their peers.
My first apartment was a two-bedroom unit in a large student housing complex about a mile off campus. The unit itself was indistinguishable from all of the other large apartment communities in my college town, large enough bedrooms with a private bathroom and centrally located communal spaces. Student housing amenities were mostly the same at all the apartments I viewed. However, there were several features that really pulled me toward signing a lease with that particular complex and all of them involved intentionally created public, communal spaces that made socializing with my neighbors seem natural and inevitable.
Green space is hard to resist
That first apartment of mine had four buildings in the complex and each of them were built around large, mature oak trees and had a large deck with benches that wound around each tree. The top of the buildings were open air and residents kept potted plants in the space to utilize the sunlight. The courtyard garden was full of residents in all kinds of weather, it was a great place to study, eat lunch, and just hang out.
Making green space a priority in an apartment complex not only increases the curb appeal of your property, it also provides communal spaces where residents can relax and socialize.
Make sure there are obvious places for residents to communicate
Many of the students who lived in my first apartment complex were in their first year living alone, neither with parents or in a dorm. Away from a busy campus and a hall full of freshman, a lot of the residents were less inclined to talk to their neighbors, even though we were all students.
Luckily, our property management realized the importance of public space. There were benches everywhere, and modular furniture in the gym and laundry areas. There was a bulletin board in every building for residents to post flyers, ads, and lost or found items. These small comforts mimicked dorm life just enough to put residents at ease in their new apartments and made it simple to contact a neighbor in a low-stress manner.
Encourage your residents to connect online as a neighborhood
When I signed my lease, there was a page of my information packet that made me very glad I chose that particular apartment complex. My property manager included a sheet with instructions on how to join the building’s email listserv, and stressed that participation was optional. The listserv functioned as an online bulletin board. I used it to list for sale items, to find a pet sitting job, and to coordinate study sessions and pizza nights.
Students found neighbors with whom they shared classes and majors, and people made friends where they lived. Giving residents the option to communicate with each other online at the beginning of their leases plants a seed for community to grow, and makes for happier residents.