What Multi-Family Housing Will Look Like in 2021 and Beyond



The phrase “social distancing” is a part of our common language now, but I bristle at the idea of being socially distanced. As human beings, we want to be connected socially, but for now, we’re physically distancing ourselves for the greater good. There’s a difference.

At Kieffer Design Group, we’re working with our multi-family housing clients to come up with innovative design solutions to allow for maximum physical distancing and well-being at their existing properties, as well as new builds.

With projects that are being designed and planned right now, many developers are asking what needs to be done from a design perspective. Our response is to provide as many wellness-oriented solutions and amenities as possible that still provide the best net operating income and return on investment. Because who wouldn’t want all those great amenities and special considerations? But will you get the rent out of them? Does your community or focused market demand them, and have the income to afford them? These are all important questions to answer.

Many of these solutions (and problems) are short-term, but these are the multi-family residential design trends I see right now and for 2021 that will likely stick around, even when things return to “normal.” 

With Gen Z the largest renter market and Millennials a runner up, their opinions and expectations matter. They value experiences with friends, technology, and sustainability over things.


We’re moving forward on a variety of residential clubhouses both in the design and construction phase, and are still focusing on café-like common spaces where individuals can gather, or simply sit and see and be seen. We’re incorporating vignettes, or “Posse Pods”  where people can work and be physically distant while still maintaining a sense of “togetherness” and welcome random encounters.

Charging stations and strong internet connectivity remain paramount in these venues, especially as we expect individuals to continue the “work from anywhere” ethos and many businesses opt to keep employees working remotely due to cost. And regarding tours and viewing, research shows over 43% of the renter’s request in-person viewing and less online…they are a social generation!

In these common spaces, we’re also seeing a surge in interest for touchless elevator systems and doors, separate entries for deliveries, smart lockers, antimicrobial surfaces, and upgraded air filtration systems, in addition to nice looking and readily available hand washing or sanitizing stations (not the ugly ones on rollers), recycling centers and other sustainability features. And, of course, natural light and windows are a huge selling point in common areas that blur the boundaries of indoor and outdoors.



2021 will also see a focus on these in-unit amenities: 

·      Voice-activated home features

·      Low VOC paint

·      Dual-purpose spaces in units with built-in desks and shelving, as well as walk-in closets that can double as office space with nifty tricks like flip-up desks

·      Anti-microbial kitchen and bath surfaces that kill germs instantly

·      Better and larger cooking surfaces in units, as people cook more at home, as well as larger fridges/freezers to accommodate food storage

·      Energy Star rated appliances

·      Touch free kitchen faucets

·      Hardwood or LVP flooring for cleanability

·      Keyless entries, vs. old-fashioned keys. They are safer and more hygienic.

·      Community App to keep in touch with events, news and updates


Our multi-family housing clients say the #1 outdoor amenity is the pool, which is certainly still the focus for us going forward, but we’re designing and expecting even more attention on other types of outdoor amenities like bocce ball courts, badminton, volleyball, built-in barbecues, and elaborate fire pits, as well as community gardens.

Many people have become more accustomed to spending time and socializing outdoors this summer, and we expect that phenomenon to continue even into winter months with outdoor heaters and firepits so the residents can keep their physical distance out in the fresh air.

Regarding pools, private cabanas have been the RAGE this summer (ask any manager who takes reservations for these coveted spaces!). We expect the “big cabanas” trend to continue in 2021 – not out of necessity but simply preference, as they have become the status symbol of the moment and a new token of luxury living.


Did you adopt a dog or buy a bike over the past few months? If not, it seems you’re in the minority. With so many new “covid puppies” and newly procured bicycles to exercise/get around, people need a place to help take care of them more than ever. We’ve been seeing an upsurge in bike storage rooms and dog/bike wash areas already, and we expect this trend to explode in 2021.

Multifamily Design and covid-19

photos left to right: Justin Veenema / Will H McMahan

Smart design that’s focused on wellness, dynamic outdoors, and an efficient use of space is a selling point throughout generations, from Gen Z to Boomers, but as we look to the next generation of renters over the next 10 years, we predict even more of a focus on community and socializing. These renters not only will pay a little more for these amenities and features, but they also expect them to become the norm.

A future without physical distancing and more social interaction? We can’t wait.

Have questions about designing (or redesigning) your multi-family project? Drop us a line, we’d love to chat about creative solutions for now and moving forward.  Contact Judi at: judi@kiefferdesigngroup.com



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