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Creating Community at Apartment Complexes -- Even Now

Jan 18, 2021 by Barbara Zito
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Social distancing has caused many people, particularly apartment dwellers, to get major cabin fever during the pandemic. While the coronavirus vaccine has us optimistic that we can safely return to larger in-person gatherings in the near future, we're still not quite out of the woods yet. And depending on which state you own a rental property in, it could mean for a long winter.

Prior to the pandemic, many apartment complexes were engaging communities thanks to programming calendars filled with the likes of exercise classes, barbecues, and other in-person events. Now, there are property managers and landlords who are using technology to create a virtual calendar of events and programs that continue to foster a safe and socially distant community of tenants.

If you've never thought about community programming for your tenants, or if you've had in-person events sidelined because of COVID-19, here are some ways to keep your tenants engaged with their neighbors and happy that they live in your building.

Creating community amid social distancing

If there's a silver lining during this time, it's that technology can keep us connected. And while the work-from-home crowd might be feeling a bit of Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM) fatigue, many would admit that logging on to socialize feels much different than it does for a work meeting.

Here are some ideas of programming you can offer your tenants:

Dinners "out" at local restaurants

Here's a chance to build community and support local businesses. Each week, residents can choose a local restaurant, order in, and enjoy a delicious meal in the virtual company of the other foodies in your building. Better yet? Get the restaurant owner or chef to join in and give a talk about the particular cuisine or perhaps even a kitchen demonstration.

Trivia nights

Once a popular evening out at bars and restaurants, trivia nights can keep on quizzing at home. Use an app like Kahoot! to create questions tenants can answer on their smartphones or tablets. Team up with a local business and award a gift certificate to the weekly winner.

Book discussions with the author

Many have had the chance to catch up on their to-be-read piles, and Zoom and other online platforms have been the place for more than a few quarantine book clubs. But here's a way to take those virtual book chats up a notch: Invite the author. In 2020, writers had their book tours canceled because libraries and bookstores were shuttered. Newer authors in particular are more than willing to be welcomed by readers into their virtual discussions. You can usually make the request on the author's web page or reach out to them via their social media channels -- Instagram (NASDAQ: FB) in particular is a place where authors promote their new books.

Workday coffee chats/tea time

Many who work from home are missing the camaraderie of chatting with their coworkers in the break room. Create a virtual water cooler and organize an online tea or coffee chat for neighbors to "share" an office and interact with one another.

Adopt-a-Neighbor program

This is a good idea for apartment communities that house multigenerational tenants. Recruit willing participants and match younger neighbors with older neighbors to check in by phone to chat and perhaps fulfill the occasional light errand request, like food shopping. Many people who were used to regularly volunteering prior to the pandemic will appreciate the opportunity to do something good right within their own building.

Art shows

If you have the space for it -- even a hallway wall will do -- consider a small exhibition of artwork. Better yet, let the little ones in the building provide the work. Particularly if the school system has gone remote in your area, children will love the opportunity to show off any projects they're working on. Bonus: They'll bring a smile to the faces of adult neighbors who might be distanced from their grandchildren.

Online lectures/classes

Send out a survey to your tenants and ask who might be willing to offer a free virtual class in their areas of expertise. From cooking to exercise to meditation, your tenants can learn new skills from their neighbors.

Outdoor exercise classes

This is especially good if you have an open space where people can safely distance themselves for yoga, Tai Chi, or another activity. Of course, this might prove a bit tricky if you're experiencing a cold winter. But even then, neighbors might be willing to bundle up and go for a socially distant stroll on the grounds or walking trails, if your complex has them.

The bottom line

While you always want to be respectful of your tenants' privacy, you also want to provide a way for them to feel connected to their community. Good neighbors make for good apartment living. Those positive interactions might be just the thing that encourages your tenants to renew their leases year after year.

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Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. bz829 has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.