- The surge of remote work opportunities during and after the pandemic spurred renters to move away from traditional employment centers and into emerging cities that lay on the edge of the urban core and outside of suburbia.
- This paradigm shift aligns perfectly with Gen Z, who is highly attracted to these semi-urban communities.
- Targeting the Gen Z renter, developers are looking to differentiate their properties with innovative amenities and design considerations that appeal to this growing demographic.
This article was written by AO’s Ioanna Magiati and Paolo Leon for Work Design Magazine.
As the first generation of digital natives, Generation Z aka Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) is highly accustomed to a technology-first lifestyle. Their penchant towards digital connectivity was solidified during the COVID-19 pandemic, where Gen Z quickly adapted to technology that paved the way for remote work with programs like Zoom and Teams.
Meanwhile, the surge of remote work opportunities during and after the pandemic spurred renters to move away from traditional employment centers and into emerging cities that lay on the edge of the urban core and outside of suburbia. This paradigm shift aligns perfectly with Gen Z, who is highly attracted to these semi-urban communities that marry the vibrancy and conveniences of urban living with the affordability, higher quality of life, and open space often associated with the suburban lifestyle.
With little to no previous work experience and untethered employment becoming normalized, Gen Z were among the first to realize that with a solid broadband connection, they could remain professionally and socially productive, working from nearly any location. As a result, Gen Z adopted a new set of personal and professional lifestyle preferences, which often prioritize convenience, flexibility, and connectivity — all of which are core to the semi-urban living movement.
Once overlooked locations by multifamily developers, emerging semi-urban California communities like Westminster, Stanton, and Santa Ana in Orange County, Rancho Cucamonga and Murrietta in the Inland Empire, and San Leandro and Santa Maria in the Bay Area are becoming epicenters for mixed-use development and community revitalization. Targeting the Gen Z renter, developers are looking to differentiate their properties with innovative amenities and design considerations that appeal to this growing demographic.
Gen Z Design Trends
Seeking living environments that meet the functional, professional, and social needs of Gen Z’ers, architects are responding with highly nuanced design solutions that will deliver long-term benefits. Here are some of the multifamily and apartment architectural design trends that are becoming popular with Generation Z:
Flex space and layouts:
Gen Z’ers are often looking for apartments with flexible layouts that can be adapted to their changing needs. This could include open concept plans, multi-functional furniture, and other space-saving features. For Cloud House in Stanton, various unit plans offer dens as extra space that can be purposed for whatever the resident has in mind, such as game rooms, office or studio space.
Supporting remote work:
Gen Z’ers who work from home need apartments with amenities that support their productivity, such as dedicated workspaces, high-speed internet, and meeting rooms. Units at Harvest at Terra Vista in Rancho Cucamonga include built-in desks for work or study, while communities like VRV in Stanton feature modern, WeWork inspired coworking and meeting spaces to attract hybrid and remote workers. Recently completed in Santa Ana, Broadstone Atlas boasts a podcast studio appealing to the Gen Z lifestyle.
Gen Zers value community and connection, so they are drawn to apartments with innovative uses and active spaces where they can socialize and collaborate such as lounges, game rooms, fitness centers, and rooftop terraces. Also in Stanton, Cloud House features one of the largest roof decks in Orange County featuring a jumbo screen for outdoor sporting events and movie nights adjacent to the resort-style pool.
As digital natives, Gen Zers are always connected and require apartments that are equipped with the latest tech features. This could include smart home technology, electronic keyless entry, voice-activated assistants, and energy-efficient appliances. Currently under construction in Riverside, Iowa Apartments replaces a typical leasing center with a digital leasing platform, providing on-the-spot virtual tours that expedite the leasing experience, catering to digital natives.
Ferns and Fido:
There is a growing trend of Gen Z showing particular affinity towards plants and pets. As a result, amenities that account for these personal treasures, such as pet spas and open patios are highly sought after.
Finally, Gen Z is accustomed to sharing their lives on social media and relies heavily on the internet to make decisions, including where they want to live and rent. Designing spaces that are creative, artistic, and fun entices renters, ensuring that there is always something new to discover and a great photo to be taken. At Broadstone Atlas in Santa Ana, interior design, landscape, murals and art combine to create buzzworthy spaces and Instagrammable backdrops.
As design continues to evolve, architects and developers are well-served by understanding the needs and preferences of this generation to meet both the social and functional desires of this growing target market. Additional key considerations that designers should account for when designing apartments for Gen Z include their preferences for personalization, security and safety, and convenience. These drivers will also continue to define the semi-urban community.
The rise of the semi-urban community spurred by post-pandemic workforce culture has been met with both challenges and opportunities. While California cities grapple to respond to the housing crisis, semi-urban communities are being reimagined as the new modern lifestyle frontier at a time when Gen Z are looking to relocate in search of affordability and a perceived lifestyle enhancement. Recognizing Gen Z’s growing demand for quality housing and attracted by relatively lower construction costs, developers too are converging on semi-urban communities to partner with cities in pursuit of a common vision for high-quality, affordable housing and economic and community revitalization.