A new research platform launches for a data-deprived multifamily sector

The list of leading developers, owners, and property managers that are funding the NMHC Research Foundation speaks to the information gap it hopes to fill.  

August 17, 2016 |

A 250-unit, 12-story, transit-oriented apartment building, developed by Lincoln Property Co., is expected to begin construction at Harlem Avenue and South Boulevard in Chicago late this year or early 2017. Lincoln is one of 32 contributors to the NHMC Research Foundation, a new research entity whose goal is to provide better and more detailed data on the multifamily housing sector. Image: Oak Park Economic Development Corp./Chicago Tribune

There are more than 38 million Americans living in apartments. The multifamily sector continues to drive America’s housing construction, and contributes more than $1 trillion annually to the country’s economy through financing, development, and operations of apartment complexes.

But available data about this sector and its residents continue to be sparse, given the size of this market and its growth.

To fill “critical voids” in that data, the National Multifamily Housing Council has raised $2.25 million in cash commitments from some of the biggest companies in this sector for the launch of a nonprofit NMHC Research Foundation that would fund unique and original research on such topics as housing, demographics, tax policy, regulations, zoning, and land use.

“As the multifamily industry grows in sophistication, so must the quality and breadth of our analysis,” says Doug Bibby, NMHC’s President and CEO. “The NMHC Research Foundation ensures that we’re able to continue providing leading, actionable information for the apartment market and support our member businesses.” 

The Foundation, a 501(c)(3) entity, is guided by a board of directors comprised of Bibby; Kenny Emson, NMHC’s Senior Vice President of Finance Administration; and Mark Obrinsky, Senior Vice President for Research and Chief Economist. A Board of Advisors will provide input into the Foundation’s program of research. 

It is not immediately clear how the research conducted and published by the Foundation will overlap or add to research that NMHC already churns out in such forms as its quarterly report of apartment market conditions, or various newsletters and reports that have recently touched on such subjects as the single-family rental market and aging apartment stock.

The NMHC research is generally members-only content.

Jim Lapidis, NMHC’s Vice President of Strategic Communications, tells BD+C that the Foundation is being layered into NMHC’s operations. “We do not anticipate hiring anyone specifically for the Foundation. We will be relying on a group of industry experts to volunteer their time and energy to review and award research grants,” he says.

It appears the Foundation’s research will be deeper dives into different topics, such as:

•Assessing risk-adjusted returns on apartments compared to other real estate and non real estate assets returns on apartments compared to other real estate and non real estate assets;

•Analyzing costs, challenges, and effects of inclusionary zoning policies;

•Studying energy consumption in multifamily buildings, with an eye toward providing guidance for energy efficiencies;

•Reviewing the norms of parking ratios in new developments;

•Examining the age of apartment stock and the cost of rehabilitation; and

•Exploring consumer needs and business viability of longer-term leases geared toward older and/or retired households.

Companies that have made early funding commitments to the Foundation include founding partners RealPage (a $1 million pledge) and Weidner Apartment Homes ($500,000). Each will pay out over a three-year period, and RealPage is availing Foundation with access to its databases and analytic capabilities.

“RealPage is excited to partner with NMHC to enhance the industry’s intelligence,” says Steve Winn, its Chairman and CEO.

NMHC identifies a total of 32 “early” contributors, comprising a veritable who’s who of developers, owners, and property managers in the multifamily space. They include Marcus & Millichap, Trammell Crow, Mill Creek Residential, UDR, Bozzuto Group, Pinnacle, SARES REGIS Group, Waterton, and Essex Property Trust. 

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