Tiny House. Big Impact.

Tiny housing making big impact on combating homelessness in America

Affordable housing and providing access to quality housing is a vital social responsibility for the multifamily industry and something that is near and dear to the heart of Package Concierge, especially founder and CEO Georgianna W. Oliver. As such, we wanted to share with you this blog from Andy Helmer, CEO of Shelters to Shutters, a national non-profit working to help combat homelessness, on how our industry can make a difference.

The fight to end homelessness in this country is a massive undertaking. About 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Alleviating this problem in a meaningful way will surely require a multi-faceted effort involving federal, state and local governments, non-profits and the private sector.

Tiny homes have become a solution to homelessness. Here’s one possible component of the solution to this giant issue: tiny homes. Across the U.S., organizations are using tiny houses and apartment homes, which typically range from 100 square feet to 500 square feet, to provide shelter for the homeless.

For instance, the nonprofit American Family Housing recently opened Potter’s Lane, a 16-unit community in Midway City, Calif., to house homeless vets. The property features 480-square-foot apartment homes made from energy-efficient shipping containers.

Across the country, in Newfield, N.Y., the nonprofit Second Wind Cottages, relying heavily on donated materials and volunteer labor, built a community of 12 tiny homes that house homeless men. Residents pay rent as they are able to help defray the community’s operating expenses.

Other examples of similar communities include the Tiny House Village in Seattle and the Community First! Village in Austin, Texas.

Advocates of these developments note that they are comparatively cheap to build, and constructions costs often are further mitigated through the use of materials and labor supplied for free by area businesses and residents.

Can the multifamily industry incorporate tiny apartment homes for the homeless into their communities? It’s certainly something to think about. With its ample resources and vast supply of creative and intelligent people, the multifamily industry should not be shy about stepping up to the plate to help address this critical issue, and tiny apartment homes might be one way to do that.

Another Piece to the Puzzle

Shelters to Shutters (S2S), a Fairfax, Va.-based nonprofit, offers another way for the apartment industry to reduce homelessness. S2S currently works with 23 apartment management companies – including such large operators as

How tiny would your tiny home be?

AvalonBay Communities and Equity Residential – to place people experiencing homelessness in onsite, entry-level jobs and provide them with housing at the same communities at which they work.

Overall, these apartment companies have moved more than 100 people out of homelessness in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Texas. And they’ve gained hardworking, loyal associates in the process. The job retention rate for S2S participants is 92 percent while the average industry turnover rate, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council, is 31 percent.

S2S provides its apartment management partners with pre-screened, job-trained candidates for entry-level positions such as maintenance technicians and leasing agents. The organization focuses on the 70 percent of the homeless population who are situationally homeless due to a life-altering event such as job loss, medical or health emergency, divorce, domestic abuse or the loss of a primary income earner.

Whether it’s through tiny homes, working with nonprofits like S2S or some other method, the multifamily industry can make a real difference in the fight against homelessness. I strongly urge you to consider how you and your apartment company can do just that.

Want to learn more about us? Click here to find out – Package Concierge

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Hardwire Internet has important edge over Wi-Fi for Apartments

The world is linked by wireless Internet, but even Wi-Fi can experience some connection tangles from time to time.

While, Wi-Fi is a more popular, widely used method of Internet connection these days, don’t be so quick to bail on the good ol’ Ethernet cord – at least for the backend of your apartment community. Wi-Fi is more convenient and tops the resident demand list, but a trusty hardwire connection is immensely more secure and challenging to hack.

Convenience is a great sell, and your property probably won’t meet its occupancy goals without wireless access for daily use in your resident’s apartment homes. You have to have it. Although, when it comes to operations, nothing beats top-notch security, especially digital security, which some residents don’t realize they actually need.

The Package Concierge Premier system is eye catching at Blair Tower.As more apartment communities begin to rely on Internet connection for day-to-day operational functions, like rent payment portal sites and electronic package locker systems, property managers should consider some of the pitfalls of a wireless connection before rolling up the Ethernet cables for good:

Wi-Fi signals commonly drop with interference

Wireless doesn’t have as stable an Internet connection as a hardwire because it only works within a certain range, and is more susceptible to interference and objects blocking the signal. Any wireless user can vouch a Wi-Fi signal can get pretty feisty.

In an apartment community, if the wireless were to go out, it could disable an entire system that operates via Internet. If Wi-Fi loses a signal during a streamed video or game, it’s an annoyance. If the signal goes out at an apartment community running package lockers or a security gate system, it potentially puts residents’ safety and possessions at risk.

Wireless offers easier setup, less return on investment

A downfall of hardwired Internet is the setup and connection takes a bit more time and work to configure than Wi-Fi. However, hardwire is a vastly more consistent, and even faster, connection once it’s up and running. Property managers will get back what they put into setting up a more secure connection system for residents.

The return on investment from a hardwire connection is worth the initial time. Residents are more likely to use something that works efficiently, without many issues. Wi-Fi is quicker and easier, but will likely have more problems down the road, draining management’s time and energy and taking associates away from other important community tasks.

Not as much data protection

Since hardwired Internet is more difficult to hack, it is also better equipped to guard data than a password-protected, private Wi-Fi connection. When overseeing many different residents in an apartment community, data protection is crucial not only for the management’s sensitive and private information, but also for the protection of residents’ personal information and privacy.

Wireless encryption standards are always being changed because the connection is just not safe. With a hardwire everything is contained.

Of course, we are not suggesting to move to hardwire.

Smartphones have drastically changed the way we must think about cyber security and wi-fi capabilities.

Cell phones use wireless connection, so different resident and community apps are exclusively Wi-Fi driven. However, keep in mind, some community amenities that utilize Internet can benefit from connection via hardwire, like [Package Concierge’s] electronic package locker systems.

Wi-Fi is definitely convenient and a must-have amenity that residents demand in their homes. However, for an apartment community on an operational level, it’s not necessarily offering residents the security and reliability they need, which hardwire provides.

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Avoid a Package Tower! A Recap of Fun Shared During the NAA Learning Zone

The multifamily industry is constantly spawning fresh innovations year after year. What’s a better way to learn about some of the cool, pain-reducing apartment technology than with a little friendly competition?

At this year’s NAA Conference and Expo in Atlanta, we explored package management advancements in our Learning Zone. Participants played “Avoid the Tower of Boxes,” a hands-on experience of the common package management pain-point plaguing our industry today. We hoped to deliver that “ah-ha” moment about why things don’t have to be that way anymore.

Allison Blair discusses the importance of having a package management system in place.With the rise of online shopping, packages are towering up daily in leasing offices, and it’s only going to get worse. Leasing professionals face a daily average of 30 resident packages delivered on-site requiring significant time management. Onsite team members must stop what they’re doing to process packages, which can take at least 5 minutes per package. Add to that the struggle of finding a place to store all those packages and you’re bound to fall victim to a tumbling tower.

And so, the tower begins

Our Learning Zone attendees were challenged in a cordial tower-building battle to simulate manual package processing vs. managing packages with a package locker system. It was truly an eye-opening experience.

Teams were each given 20 boxes separated into five daily operational activities, such as maintenance requests, tours and calls. Each box had entertaining icebreaker questions written on them. Participants discussed things like “where was your favorite vacation?” and “what is one thing on your bucket list?”

Once everyone in the group answered each question, that team could start building their tower. The faster they talked, the faster they could start building. Needless to say, things got a little loud (isn’t funny how when people talk faster they tend to get louder?).

But there was a catch. One of the teams had three boxes that read: “Stop. You get five packages.” These three boxes represented the interruption caused when a package is delivered to the office. Obviously, this team took much longer to build the tower, and inevitably finished last. This exhibits how much of a drain manually processing packages truly is on overall time management.

Then the “ah-ha” moment…

While our little competition was friendly, it did showcase how innovative package management solutions can profoundly impact daily operations. Without interruption, leasing teams can focus more on customer service for both prospects and residents.

This is what package lockers and package rooms deliver – continuance. For both your operations but more importantly, your residents. With a package management solution in place, they have access to their packages 24/7. They no longer have to wait for the leasing office to open or for a staff member to retrieve their package. They can come home, retrieve their own package and get back to their life, uninterrupted.

The Package Concierge Premier and Express System compliment one another at NAA 2017.We hope our competitors enjoyed the game and got a sense of what it’s like for leasing team members at communities with – and without – a package management solution.

Visit us at www.packageconcierge.com for more details.

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I-85 Bridge Collapse Could Impact Package Delivery Scene in Atlanta

After our initial shock when we saw the unprecedented traffic jam and bridge collapse on Atlanta’s major thoroughfare Interstate 85, the first thing we thought was: How is that going to affect package delivery?

When you’re in this business, those are the connections you make.

Atlanta features notoriously heavy traffic to begin with – the fourth-worst in the nation, according to INRIX – and the bizarre I-85 incident clearly won’t help. The bridge collapse on March 30 reportedly was due to a homeless man starting an accidental fire beneath an overpass. If that wasn’t enough to compound things, a portion of Interstate 20 buckled on April 17 due to an underground gas leak, which sent a biker airborne.

We’re not here to criticize traffic situations in particular towns, and we’re eager to see the vibrant city for the Atlanta Apartment Association’s 2017 Trade Show. But this spurred thoughts as to how much package delivery could increase in Atlanta, considering two of its major vessels have endured significant setbacks. Will the city’s residents be less eager to commute to brick-and-mortar stores when they can simply order items online? Will lunch-break shopping trips decline as residents are foregoing the traffic challenges and opting to work from home?

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, freight traffic traveling through the city is now being directed to I-285 to bypass the city until the projected June 15 reopening of the bridge on I-85. As more vehicles use the alternate route, times will slow for commuters and logistics firms alike. Toby Jorgensen, a senior analyst at CBRE research told the newspaper: “The hardest part is the last-mile consumer and business delivery.”

It will be compelling to see how consumers, businesses and apartment communities adapt to the newfound challenges.

In the tech-savvy city, perhaps drone delivery will start to become a larger part of things as well. Drones have the capability to bypass heavily congested freeways and drop off packages at an apartment community much more efficiently. Residents will have their shipments in their package lockers right on schedule. In the future, this might even advance a step further. Imagine living on the 18th floor of a swanky urban high-rise and having your package drone-delivered to your balcony.

Perhaps we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here, but these are the things we think about when we’re heading to a new city for a conference.  We’re excited for Atlanta and the opportunity to learn more about how different regions utilize package management. We’re just hoping we don’t have to spend too much time on the freeways.

P.S. We will be back in Atlanta for the National Apartment Association Education Conference and Expo starting on June 21st – wonder how the package situation will be different then? Either way, be sure to stop by and see us!

Meet Tim and Alexis on Wednesday, April 26th 2017!

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Top 10 Hidden Holidays You Need To Prepare For

We all know about how the winter holidays always lead to a profound uptick in the number of packages your residents are receiving. But as ecommerce continues to rise exponentially, there are so many other times throughout the year when package delivery may surge at your properties. Check out our list of “Top 10 Hidden Holidays” you need to be prepared for:

You can find anything you need on the world wide web for the hidden holidays.

  1. Super Bowl Sunday. Once your team is out, you frantically buy gear for your de facto team of choice (let’s just say my son now owns a Falcons sweatshirt). Besides, how else are you going to get all football themes napkins, bowls, plates, etc. the Super Bowl Party?!
  1. 100th Day of School. Yes, this is a thing and not something we made up. It’s mostly celebrated by younger students sometime in February, as schools have fun with the number 100. Many Pinterest-loving mothers are known to order craft items at this time, which can lead to a sneaky increase of packages in some circles.
  1. Valentine’s Day. That oversized Vermont Teddy Bear isn’t going to drive itself to your significant other’s home. And neither is that sparkling necklace or whatever else you’ve ordered to make sure you’re not the goat on the international day of love.
  1. Memorial Day. Everyone wants to get away for Memorial Day. But it’s even better to leave town with that new tent, new fishing supplies, new tarps and other camping accessories. Late May always leads to a package boom.
  1. Independence Day. Yes, it’s illegal to ship fireworks by mail, so we’re not even going to go that route. But it’s also the heart of barbecue season and summer house parties, which leads to an uptick in online ordering of wide-ranging supplies.
  1. Amazon Prime Day. The monster online retailer held its first holiday exclusively for its own “Prime” members in July 2015, predictably resulting in an online ordering frenzy. 2016’s Prime Day, which Amazon touted as “one-day-only global shopping event,” was even bigger. The retail giant has vowed to bring back Prime Day this year although an official date has not been announced. So what can we expect from this year’s Prime Day?! If it’s anything like last year when we saw more than a 30% increase in packages two days after Amazon Prime Day, it will be one of the biggest package delivery days EVER!
  1. Back to School. Mid- to late-August means back-to-school time. This can create a sizable package rush, particularly for student housing communities. College students are continuing to seek alternative methods to purchase textbooks, such as sites like Chegg and eCampus, rather than buying them for full price on campus.
  1. Labor Day. While Memorial Day unofficially signifies the beginning of summer, Labor Day serves as its end-of-summer counterpart. That means one last chance to escape the grind. It also means heavy discounts on outdoor merchandise as retailers look to make a push before camping season ends.
  1. Pre-Halloween. While it’s a given that packages will arrive in droves during the Christmas season, this holiday can creep up on you. Some even call it a pseudo-holiday because no one ever gets the day off for Halloween, but expect a full package room as people continually opt to purchase their costumes online.
  1. Home Events. As families convene, host homes don’t want to disappoint. While orders of kitchen and culinary supplies increase, families also commonly spruce up their homes to make a favorable impression on their visitors.

Visit our website here to help you manage these holidays to come.

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Package Deliveries Doubled Last Week!

package deliveriesGeorgianna W. Oliver, CEO

Package Deliveries Are on the Rise!

Everything just exploded for packages for 2016 holiday season. Last week, Package Concierge saw an increase in package deliveries from 87,500 packages to 151,000 in just one week! This includes carry over from Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, but the numbers are still impressive. The package load has doubled and will continue at this pace for the next two full weeks.

What Can Property Managers Do to Tame the Package Beast?

1. Keep the Lockers Moving. Send out mass notifications to all residents about their package deliveries. Packages sitting in the lockers can create storage issues. Space is a premium and the failure to pick up their packages can impact future package deliveries. There is only so much space to go around and package deliveries won’t wait!

2. Implement Daily Storage Fees for Packages Left 3-5 Days. Contact your salesperson or client services manager for help with turning on the daily storage fee feature.

3. Turn off Shipping and Returns until January 1st. If your property is currently using the function that allows residents to ship/return packages through the lockers, it’s taking up valuable space for deliveries during this high peak time.

4. Increase the Number or Frequency of Notifications. You can increase the number of notifications residents receive about their packages in a day. How? Through the Package Concierge management portal! More frequent notifications will help expedite pick up times.

5. Double Check All Lockers Are Available. Remember, the Package Concierge automatically takes a single locker offline if there are any issues. An example is an open locker for an extended period of time.

This is a busy time of year for property managers in apartment buildings! Package Concierge is here to help ease the pressure of all your package delivery needs.

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What Makes An Amenity Awesome?

Amenity

An Amenity Today Means Residents Tomorrow.

The world of multifamily is competitive. With diverse communities duking it out for residents, location (while important) isn’t enough. That’s where amenities make all the difference. Amenities can be a true differentiator when a market is full of new communities. A pool and fitness room are industry standard now and let’s be honest, are these enough? Or would you rather live in a community with a pool, fitness room, and a rooftop cinema? We know the answer already. Amenities are subjective and communities need to provide amenities that cater to their demographic. So how does one determine if an amenity will make a difference? Here are a few things to take into consideration:

  • Increased Value for the Resident: An amenity may be a deciding factor in community selection for future residents. It just depends on what they place value in. Since rent prices are largely dictated by location, an amenity is an added value. A good metric to pay attention to is who’s living in the community. Will Millennials prefer a wine cellar or a high-tech social lounge? Know who your residents are and what they want; it’ll make a huge difference.
  • It Makes Life Easier: A good amenity is one that makes users question how they lived without it until now. Basic examples include laundry capabilities and on-site transportation services like Zipcar. Another great example of an amenity while transcending demographics are our Package Concierge systems. Everyone can’t always be home for a package delivery and our lockers hold the delivery until it’s ready for pickup. Not only does our package management solution work for all, it just makes sense.
  • Keep It Simple: Amenities don’t need to be elaborate. Sure, property managers across the country may be jealous of The Oosten, located in Brooklyn N.Y. and developed by Xin Development Group, for giving out a free trip to Europe to meet the building’s designer, but a little can go a long way too. In an NMHC survey conducted in conjunction with Kingsley Associates, 80% wanted secured community access. Is that so much to ask for? Electronic and keyless entry systems are affordable and a community maintenance team can install them. This is a simple upgrade and may be just the amenity needed to boost leases.

Amenities make all the difference. They’re the added incentive to those looking for a new community to call home. Check your local market to see what you’re up against. Go visit other communities with the amenities you’re interested in incorporating into your own. If an amenity is within the realm of possibility and it suits the community’s demographic, go for it! You can even reach out to your current residents and ask them for suggestions. However you decide to do it, go out and get the game-changing amenity!

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How to Use Renewable Energy in Your Apartment

Generally, apartment dwellers don’t typically get to choose their electricity provider. Whatever company is in the building they lease at is their provider through and through. So for the energy conscious out there, how do you help the environment when you can’t choose your energy source? After all, there is a whole slew of renewable energy out there. Why not use it? If you’re a renewable energy enthusiast, as we all should be, but rent in a community that does not use  any of these solutions, here’s how you can play your part in helping the environment:

Renewable Energy Chargers:

USBcharger

If you’re like most people, you charge your cell phone or laptop at least once a day. Purchasing a portable renewable energy charger allows you to skip plugging those mobile devices into the wall, and save energy on some of the devices you use the most. They’re also great for camping, hiking or long road trips.

Solar Powered Window Thermometers:

thermomete

Super easy to use, this solar powered window thermometer clings to your window and displays the temperature outside. Since it collects power from sunlight during the day, you will never need to worry about taking it down to change batteries.

Wind Powered Outdoor Lights:

windlightRecently, Ikea developed an outdoor lighting fixture that is powered by wind. This clever item is not only trendy and sure to add a uniqueness to your outdoor space, but its functional too. It’s a easy as letting the breeze that comes across your balcony power the lights.

 

Water Powered Alarm Clock:

wateralarmclock

 

Just add water? Well, not exactly. This cute desk fixture is not really powered by water, but in a way it is. The water acts as a conductor for a zinc tablet within the device, essentially creating a battery without having to buy batteries. It’ll save you money and the hassle of finding batteries that fit.

Renewable Energy Toys:

solartoysThere are many options for renewable energy toys, including things the kids get to build themselves. Toy cars, robots, dancing flowers, racetrack sets: options abound. And these are a great way to start teaching kids about being responsible to the environment.

Although these options are not likely to slice your energy bill in half, they are great ways to still use and be involved with renewable energy, even while living in an apartment. And they all make great conversation pieces!

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5 Great Cities for Green Apartment Living

The progress society has made in terms of eco-friendly technology and building standards mean that more people are seeking ways to live green and have a smaller footprint on the environment. One of the ways you can help the environment is to live in green apartments when seeking a home in a city or urban area. Every city is working in its own way to make the Earth a better place for future generations, but there are a few that stand out above the rest. Although there are green apartment sand for-rent communities throughout the U.S., these 5 cities (in no particular order) have high concentrations of green-built communities, and go the distance in making it easier for you to live green.

Washington, DC:

Washington, DC is where the U.S. Green Building Council (the nonprofit that created and oversees LEED certification) is headquartered. That alone gives this city an edge. With at least seven apartment communities in the area that have achieved LEED certification by being built with sustainable construction materials, recycling waste material, and choosing fixtures to reduce the amount of fumes and toxins released into the air, DC is a great place to be involved in the green movement.

Denver:

Denver has a lot to choose from when looking to rent green. Many apartment buildings have been renovated from old industrial locations and given unique decor themes for the community. These projects help cut down on wasted materials and green-house gases that construction equipment releases into the atmosphere.

The city also offers light rail and bus service, plentiful farmers markets, and is located near the natural beauty of the Rockies. Forbes also named Denver the number 5 top healthiest city in the U.S. If that doesn’t convince you, perhaps you should visit the majestic mountain city for yourself.

Chicago:

Going green in Chicago is a city-wide effort. Not only do they have the country’s second-largest public transit system, but they also initiated green roof projects, encouraged hotels, and restaurants to go green and have a myriad of green places for rent.

The previous and current mayors of Chicago have also shown great support for the Chicago Climate Action Plan, an initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The city also hosts the Chicago Center for Green Technology, the first rehabilitated municipal building in the U.S. to achieve LEED Platinum rating.

Portland:

Portland is, in general, a great place to live green. Those who want to rent have a wide range of eco-friendly options. Beyond recycling and energy-efficient appliances, many apartment buildings in Portland were built green from the ground up and are LEED certified. Many green communities also have bike storage and car-share options, like ZipCar.

In addition to its green apartment communities, Portland also has a focus on locally grown food, a vibrant public transit system, and was rated number two on Virgin Vacation’s “11 Most Bike Friendly Cities in the World” list.

New York City:

Everyone knows New York is a place unlike any other. Its architecture is iconic, and believe it or not, much of it is also green! Through the 2000s, multiple laws have been signed into effect in NYC to ensure many new construction projects meet green guidelines, including apartment and condo buildings. New York City is also home to Melrose Commons, one of the few LEED for Neighborhood Development Platinum certified neighborhoods in the country.

Even the Empire State Building achieved LEED Gold certification in September 2011, a great example of green retrofitting of existing buildings.

Surely, one of these five great cities has a green apartment ready for you to rent!

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Best Pets for Apartments

It’s no secret that owning a pet can help you de-stress after a long day at work or class, but finding the right pet for your apartment can be a bit more challenging. Certain animals require more attention and commitment than others, while some can more or less take care of themselves. So long as your apartment is pet friendly, there is an animal friend right for your situation. fishtank

Fish– Aquatic pets require very little attention so far as feeding and exercise are concerned. However, your fishy friends will require a tank equivalent to their size and feeding every other day.  And don’t forget cleaning the tank! Some fish prefer to be alone, but others love to school in a group.

Insects– Much like fish, insects are low maintenance. But also like fish, they are not a pet you can really get close to and their lifespan is short. If this kind of pet is right for you, there are plenty of varieties to own such as ants, millipedes or even spiders.

Reptiles or Amphibians- Generally speaking, reptiles and amphibians can have a significantly long lives compared to the aforementioned critters. But they can also provide the entertainment and personality needed to spruce up an apartment. Think about whether you want an aquarium for frogs or turtles, or a terrarium for snakes, lizards or tortoises.

Birds– Flying friends like these can be a very chatty and fun addition to your life. They require a lot of exercise activities within their cage birdsand regular feeding and cleaning. The bigger the cage the better and you might even think about letting them out in your space so they can stretch their wings.

Cats– This self sufficient creature is a staple for most apartment dwellers. Cats require regular feeding and playtime, but are able to manage and entertain themselves if need be. They are the first pet on this list that you can really cuddle up to and have several breeds to choose from.

Dogs– Another furry friend on the list is the canine. Since they have a plethora of breeds, choose a smaller, less active kind for apartment living. You can go big if you have the time and space nearby to exercise them. More importantly, since dogs are high maintenance and need regular food and exercise, be sure you are truly committed to this pet before adopting.

No matter what pet you are thinking of adopting, ensure that you have the time, patience and intentions to see the animal comfortably through their entire life.

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