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Part 3: Is Multifamily Living Risky?

In part 3 of our series by Ivana Gatica, we discuss the impact student housing has on the multifamily market, especially apartments, through the eyes of people who are doing it.


The pandemic amplified our awareness of the people around us. Our days now consist of staying six feet apart from one another, avoiding crowded spaces, and weighing the risk of things like getting an Uber versus taking the bus. I never imagined that crowds would become such a point of fear on a global scale.

Back in March, we witnessed an exodus of people moving out of the city and fleeing to the suburbs. I was also one of those people. I left Chicago and flew to Pennsylvania to hunker down at my parents’ house, thinking the world would go back to normal in just a few weeks. At this point, I hadn’t fully grasped the magnitude of the situation. However, I reasoned that living in a house with three other people rather than an apartment building with hundreds was probably a decent choice.

From March until June, I experienced the pandemic from my hometown in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. My family and I kept to ourselves inside our house. Our yard separated us from our neighbors. Cars were our only mode of transportation. In those three months, we only came in contact with strangers at the supermarket and other essential places.

From a visitor management and access control standpoint, living in a single-family home seems like the safer choice during these pandemic times. I only realized I had taken the tranquility of the suburbs for granted when I returned to my apartment in Chicago. Suddenly, I had to wait in line to take the elevator (often with people not wearing masks), multiple people handled my mail, and I had no idea who my neighbors brought in and out of the building.

But there were also some new perks: I saw more familiar faces and returned to a semi-regular routine. In my last article, I talked about specific procedures my apartment building implemented to ensure the safety of residents. Today I will discuss my pros and cons for multifamily and single-family homes in COVID times.

PROS

Single-family:

  1. You manage your visitors
  2. No close contact with strangers in your living space
  3. Mail is dropped off directly to your front door, and no third party has to handle it

Multifamily:

  1. Sanitation is prioritized across the building
  2. You have a larger sense of community
  3. You have outdoor spaces available to interact with neighbors in the safety of your building
  4. Easier access to delivery of food and essential services

CONS

Single-family:

  1. A greater sense of isolation
  2. Cleaning and sanitation is up to you
  3. Less access to delivery services (food delivery services are more readily available in cities)

Multifamily:

  1. Higher concentration of people in your living area
  2. It’s more difficult to maintain social distance
  3. Less control of who comes in contact with building staff and residents
  4. More high-touch areas (elevators, keys, fobs, etc.)
  5. No control over how your neighbors handle safety precautions outside your building

The pandemic changed many of our behaviors in ways we could have never predicted. Every decision right now comes with its share of risk. Whether we have the choice to escape the city or stay, we can never be completely risk-free. From my personal experience, I’m glad I made the move to the suburbs at the height of the pandemic. It gave me a greater sense of control and safety. Upon my return to Chicago, while the risks seemed high at first, I felt better knowing that I had more friends close by to fight the ups and downs of isolation. However, it’s important to always stay mindful of how our behaviors affect others when living in multifamily buildings.

Ivana Gatica graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a degree in Fine Arts and Writing. For the past year, she has been working as a copywriter in the marketing and fintech spaces helping businesses find their unique voice. She also likes to take on freelance writing opportunities in her free time and loves to write fiction and poetry.