Rutgers Real Estate Center releases landmark study on school-aged children in multifamily properties

The number of school-age children in multifamily housing units increases with the number of bedrooms, regardless of the residents’ income level and building product type. And, if income and bedrooms are fixed, it can be shown that denser properties will have fewer school-aged children.

Those are just two of the conclusions drawn from a white paper released Thursday by the Center for Real Estate at Rutgers Business School, the institute’s effort to answer one of the most pressing questions in the industry.

Here are the key takeaways from the landmark paper, the center’s first:

  1. Across all income levels and building product types, the number of school-age children increases with the number of bedrooms;
  2. For any given number of bedrooms and product types, the number of school-age children decreases as renters’ household incomes rise;
  3. Holding income and the number of bedrooms fixed, the number of school-age children has an inverse relationship with density (e.g., garden apartments, with fewer units per building, have a greater number of school-age children, and mid- and high-rise buildings, with a greater number of units per building, have a lesser number of school-age children);
  4. Buildings with an average income of less than $50,000 per year have a similar number of school-age children, regardless of whether the buildings include affordable units or market-rate units;
  5. Buildings constructed before 2000 have a significantly higher number of school-age children living in market-rate units than do buildings built after 2000; and
  6. On average, the number of school-age children per 100 affordable units is significantly higher than the number of school-age children per 100 market-rate units.

The study was completed by an academic and industry team led by Morris Davis, the Paul V. Profeta Chair of Real Estate and academic director of the Rutgers Center for Real Estate.

Collaborating on the paper were executive committee members Debra Tantleff, founder and president of Tantum Real Estate; Ron Ladell, senior vice president of AvalonBay Communities; and professor David Frame, director of curriculum for the Rutgers Center for Real Estate.

The comprehensive study was conducted over an intensive 18-month period and surveyed a diverse array of more than 40,000 residential units in New Jersey.

The collaborators feel the study provides an unprecedented level of context for the oft-contested issue of the effects of development on generating school-age children by controlling for a number of important variables, including: household income; whether the units were market-rate or designated affordable housing; the number of bedrooms in each unit; and building type and age.

“The issue of school-age children in new multifamily development is frequently a contentious debate, and one that can benefit immensely from robust, hard data that takes into account a multitude of variables,” Davis said.

“This research is emblematic of the center’s mission as a whole, as we’ve interfaced closely with leading practitioners from the commercial real estate industry to uncover new academic insights with real practical applications.”

Ladell said he hopes the study’s impact goes past the press release.

“We expect this report to be used by everyone,” he told ROI-NJ. “We think this will be the new standard immediately for planners when they have to testify on fiscal impact.

“We expect that planners who are both representing developers and towns to use it and we think the League of Municipalities will now refer to it in the fiscal impact.”

Ladell said he hopes it will be the basis for future planning by elected officials.

“This report went to elected officials and the Governor’s Office to give them a better understanding about this issue and able them to reflect on the demographic shifts that’s happening throughout New Jersey.”

Tantleff said she hopes the report will have a lasting impact on the industry.

“One of the most critical elements of this study is that it sheds new light on the demographic and social trends that have shaped the most recent housing cycle,” she said. “This context will enable the rising generation of CRE professionals to better identify the demand for — and impact of — various residential product in the upcoming cycle, specifically the ever-growing need for quality, middle-market housing.”

The center’s study incorporated 251 surveys, representing more than 40,000 market-rate units and 4,000 affordable units. The sample size included 3.5 percent of all rental units in New Jersey.

The complete study can be downloaded here.