Apartments Can be Strangely Isolating, But Apartment Life Exists to Transform That Experience
- Published: Monday, Feb. 15, 2021
SPRINGFIELD, Mo -- There is something strangely isolating about living in apartments.
"Apartments have a smile and wave culture," said Jody Anderson, Ozark's region coordinator for Apartment Life. "Most of the time, people living in apartments might know the name of a person across the hall, but beyond that, it is just smiling and waving."
Stan Dobbs founded Apartment Life 20 years ago in Texas as a faith-based non-profit. Apartment Life has a mission is to transform lives in apartment communities.
"Apartment Life has created a business model designed around building community and a culture of connectedness and improving the quality of life of the residents and staff we serve. Through this business model, the organization has grown to become the leaders in resident retention and satisfaction in the apartment industry," said Anderson.
David Burton, a county engagement specialist with University of Missouri Extension and coordinator of the Engaged Neighbor program, says he contacted Anderson during his research on neighboring.
"So much of what we have done with MU Extension so far has focused on single-family homes," said Burton. "Some of it applies to apartments, but I was excited to see another organization was already working to address this issue in apartments and has had an excellent track record."
Burton says he recognizes that apartment living has its unique challenges.
"What apartment complexes often struggle with is people. Owners are always thinking about how they can get people and how they can we keep people," said Burton.
According to Anderson, a person who renews a contract saves an apartment owner $2800, which is the national average for what it costs to fix and refill an empty apartment.
"Our organization wants to place people who love people and who want to connect with people in vital relationships and provide a service to the apartment industry," said Anderson. "Apartment owners love the organization because we make them more money."
Community ambassadors working for Apartment Life onsite build community, love their neighbors, and care for people in times of celebration, need, and crisis.
Couples serving in that role will, for example, welcome new families moving into an apartment, conduct feedback surveys about the complex, and host two events per month for residents.
Most of all, community ambassadors listen to residents.
"We find out people's needs and then find ways to serve them," said Anderson. "We implement connection strategies, we connect with residents, we show what it means to be a good neighbor, and we do online reputation management for the property."
Most importantly, community ambassadors help with the "friendship factor." Research shows that if an individual is in a relationship with seven or more people in their community, they are ten times more likely to renew their lease because they feel connected and valued.
"I would theorize that this friendship factor can apply to any neighborhood," said Burton. "Friendships make you feel more connected and helps improve your quality of life."
EXPANDING IN SPRINGFIELD
Apartment Life has recently moved into the Springfield market and has teams at two complexes with a goal to be in six by the end of 2021. All that is needed is a willing apartment complex owners open to the program and couples willing to work 10 hours a week (as a couple).
"We mainly do word-of-mouth recruiting for community ambassadors because they must have the gift of hospitability, and their duties flow naturally out of their gift," said Anderson.
When an owner or management group reaches out wanting a team, Apartment Life will recruit one (couple, family, or roommates) from a healthy, vibrant local church and place them onsite to live on mission. This team will receive a 67 percent discount in rent in exchange for executing the program, which looks like this:
1. Welcoming new residents in person each month. The property provides a list on the first of every month with everyone that moved into the community the month before. The team does in-person visits to assess their move-in experience, alleviate the new residents' anxiety of moving into a new place, and be a friendly face.
2. Host two social events per month. The property provides the team with an event budget to host two activities per month.
3. Resident and Staff Care. The team will do their best to meet needs as they arise. If they hear someone had a baby, they will drop off a meal. If they hear someone lost a loved one, they will connect them to grief counseling. In all things, they try to serve and love their neighbors in practical ways.
Individuals or organizations wanting to partner with Apartment Life can do so by finding properties that wish to have a team placed by following the organization on social media, donating to Apartment Life, or partnering with an existing local team hosting events or meeting the unique needs of residents.
"It is easy to have your head on a swivel," said Anderson. "For example, when getting your mail, instead of doing a smile and wave, step across the road and visit with people. These small relationship-building moments add up and have a tremendous impact no matter where you live."
University of Missouri Extension is at the forefront of a national movement that recognizes the importance of neighboring in community development. As community leaders and advocates, we encourage friends to learn the names of all their neighbors, build relationships with their neighbors through common interests and shared experiences, and sustain compassionate and caring practices of neighborly love.
To learn more about our "Becoming an Engaged Neighbor" program, or for more on the impact of neighboring, go online to https://extension.missouri.edu or contact David Burton by email [email protected] or telephone at (417) 881-8909.
Writer: David Burton