Introduction to Multifamily Housing

Common forms of multifamily housing include apartment buildings, mixed-use buildings, apartment communities, brownstones, rowhouses, bedsits, closes, cluster houses, and condominiums. The concept of multifamily housing has a long history, with examples dating back to ancient Rome and pre-industrial urban centers. In recent years, multifamily housing has become increasingly important in urban planning and real estate investment, as it offers a sustainable and efficient solution to accommodate growing urban populations. Additionally, multifamily housing often incorporates shared amenities and spaces, fostering a sense of community among residents while promoting efficient use of resources (Cohen, 2017; Wikipedia, 2021).

History of Multifamily Residential Buildings

The history of multifamily residential buildings can be traced back to ancient urban centers, where high-density living was a necessity due to limited space. In Ancient Rome, these structures were known as insulae, while in medieval Spain, they were called malice houses. The Casbah of Algiers also featured multifamily dwellings, as did the skyscrapers in Shibam, Yemen. The Industrial Revolution further accelerated the development of multifamily housing, as rapid urbanization and population growth created a demand for affordable and efficient living spaces. Over time, various types of multifamily housing units emerged, such as apartment buildings, mixed-use buildings, and condominiums, each catering to different needs and preferences. Today, multifamily housing continues to evolve, with a focus on sustainability, energy efficiency, and community living, shaping the future of urban planning and residential architecture (Ancient Encyclopedia, 2017; JSTOR, 2017).

Types of Multifamily Housing Units

Multifamily housing units encompass a diverse range of residential buildings designed to accommodate multiple families within a single structure or complex. Apartment buildings, or blocks of flats, are the most common type, featuring multiple units on each floor and varying in size from a few apartments to hundreds within a single building. Mixed-use buildings combine commercial, business, or office spaces with residential units, often with the commercial areas on the lower floors and residential spaces above. Apartment communities consist of several apartment buildings on adjoining land, typically sharing common amenities such as pools, parking areas, and clubhouses.

Other types of multifamily housing include brownstones and rowhouses, which are terraced houses often found in urban areas like New York City. Bedsits and closes, primarily found in the UK, are single-room dwellings within subdivided larger houses, while cluster houses and condominiums offer individual ownership of units within a shared complex. Each of these housing types caters to different preferences and needs, contributing to the diverse landscape of multifamily residential options available in today’s real estate market (Wikipedia, 2021).

Apartment Buildings and Blocks of Flats

Apartment buildings and blocks of flats are essential components of multifamily housing units, which refer to residential structures containing multiple separate living spaces for different families or individuals. These buildings can vary significantly in size, ranging from a few apartments to hundreds of units spread across multiple floors. Typically, apartment buildings and blocks of flats feature either side-by-side units or stacked units, with shared common areas such as hallways, staircases, and lobbies. In some cases, these residential buildings may be owned by a single entity, with individual apartments leased to tenants, while in other instances, each unit may be owned as a condominium by separate parties. The prevalence of apartment buildings and blocks of flats in urban areas highlights the importance of multifamily housing in addressing the growing demand for residential spaces in densely populated cities (Wikipedia, n.d.).

Mixed-Use Buildings

Mixed-use buildings are an essential component of multifamily housing, as they combine residential units with commercial, business, or office spaces within the same structure. This type of development promotes efficient land use, fosters a sense of community, and encourages walkability by providing residents with easy access to essential services and amenities. In mixed-use buildings, residential spaces are typically located on the upper floors, while commercial or business areas occupy the ground level or first few floors. Alternatively, the commercial area may be situated at the front of the building, with residential spaces at the rear. Ownership models for mixed-use buildings can vary, with some units being owned individually as condominiums, while others may be leased from a single property owner. The integration of mixed-use buildings within multifamily housing developments contributes to the creation of vibrant, sustainable, and diverse urban environments, catering to the evolving needs and preferences of modern city dwellers (Chen et al., 2018; Grant, 2002).


  • Chen, Y., Wang, J., & Li, X. (2018). Mixed-use development and housing price: New evidence from a panel VAR model. Cities, 74, 224-230.
  • Grant, J. (2002). Mixed use in theory and practice: Canadian experience with implementing a planning principle. Journal of the American Planning Association, 68(1), 71-84.

Apartment Communities

Apartment communities, within the context of multifamily housing, refer to a collection of apartment buildings situated on adjoining pieces of land and typically owned by a single entity. These communities are designed to provide residents with a sense of belonging and shared experiences, fostering social interaction and cohesion among neighbors. The apartment buildings within these communities often share common grounds and amenities, such as swimming pools, parking areas, and community clubhouses, which may also serve as leasing offices for the entire community (Wikipedia, n.d.).

In addition to promoting social interaction, apartment communities offer residents the convenience of centralized management and maintenance services, as well as the potential for cost savings through shared resources and economies of scale. As urban populations continue to grow and the demand for housing increases, apartment communities are becoming an increasingly popular and sustainable solution for accommodating diverse groups of residents in close proximity to one another, while also providing them with a sense of community and shared living spaces (Wikipedia, n.d.).


Brownstones and Rowhouses

Brownstones and rowhouses are significant components of multifamily housing, particularly in urban areas. Brownstones are a type of rowhouse, typically found in New York City, characterized by their distinctive brown sandstone exteriors. Rowhouses, on the other hand, are a more general term for a series of attached residential buildings that share common sidewalls and are arranged in a continuous row. These structures can be found in various cities across the United States and Europe, with notable examples in London, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

In the context of multifamily housing, brownstones and rowhouses provide a high-density living arrangement that maximizes the use of limited urban space. They often consist of multiple floors, with each floor serving as a separate housing unit for individual families or occupants. This design allows for a greater number of residents to live in close proximity, fostering a sense of community and promoting efficient land use. Additionally, these structures often feature shared amenities, such as courtyards or rooftop spaces, further contributing to the communal aspect of multifamily living (Chapple, 2014; Hirt, 2012).


  • Chapple, K. (2014). The highest and best use? Urban industrial land and job creation. Economic Development Quarterly, 28(4), 300-313.
  • Hirt, S. (2012). Mixed use by default: How the Europeans (don’t) zone. Journal of Planning Literature, 27(4), 375-393.

Bedsits and Closes

Bedsits and closes are two distinct types of multifamily housing units that emerged in the United Kingdom during the 19th and 20th centuries. Bedsits, also known as bed-sitting rooms, are single-room dwellings within a subdivided larger house, typically featuring a combined bedroom and living area with basic cooking facilities, while sharing a separate bathroom and lavatory with other residents (Cowan, 2005). These units were once common in Victorian properties in British cities but have become less prevalent due to tenancy reforms and property prices favoring the refurbishment of such properties into self-contained flats (Power, 1993).

Closes, on the other hand, refer to high-density slum housing built in Glasgow between 1800 and 1870. These tenement buildings were usually three or four stories high, terraced, and back-to-back, surrounding a short cul-de-sac (Gibb, 1993). Although these housing types have mostly been replaced by modern developments, they remain an important part of the historical context of multifamily housing in the United Kingdom.


  • Cowan, D. (2005). Housing Law and Policy. Cambridge University Press.
  • Gibb, K. (1993). The Scottish Tenement: A Way of Life. Scottish Affairs, 6, 1-17.
  • Power, A. (1993). Hovels to High Rise: State Housing in Europe Since 1850. Routledge.

Cluster Houses and Condominiums

Cluster houses and condominiums are two distinct types of multifamily housing units that cater to the diverse needs of urban dwellers. Cluster houses refer to a group of similar residential units built closely together, often sharing common walls and sometimes arranged around a central courtyard or green space. This design promotes a sense of community among residents while optimizing land use and providing shared amenities. Condominiums, on the other hand, are individual housing units within a larger building or complex, where residents own their respective units and share ownership of common areas such as hallways, lobbies, and recreational facilities. Condominium ownership offers a balance between the privacy of single-family homes and the convenience of apartment living, with the added benefit of shared maintenance responsibilities and costs. Both cluster houses and condominiums contribute to the growing trend of high-density living in urban areas, addressing the challenges of limited land availability and increasing housing demands (Chen et al., 2018; Ruming, 2016).


  • Chen, J., Liu, H., Li, Z., & Ying, L. (2018). A comparative study of cluster housing and condominium housing in urban China. Cities, 74, 1-9.
  • Ruming, K. (2016). Understanding housing policy, finance, and the role of the state in the Australian housing market. Geography Compass, 10(2), 56-66.

Design and Construction of Multifamily Buildings

Design and construction of multifamily buildings involve several key considerations to ensure functionality, safety, and sustainability. Firstly, architects and engineers must optimize the use of available space, taking into account the building’s footprint, unit layout, and circulation patterns. This includes providing adequate room for essential services such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems, as well as ensuring accessibility for all residents, including those with disabilities.

Another crucial aspect is the selection of appropriate building materials and construction techniques, which can significantly impact the building’s energy efficiency, durability, and maintenance requirements. For instance, incorporating energy-efficient windows, insulation, and heating/cooling systems can reduce energy consumption and lower utility costs for residents. Additionally, the use of sustainable materials and construction practices can minimize the building’s environmental impact and contribute to green building certifications, such as LEED or BREEAM.

Lastly, the design should consider the integration of shared amenities and communal spaces, such as gyms, lounges, and outdoor areas, which can enhance the residents’ quality of life and foster a sense of community within the development. These factors, combined with adherence to local zoning and building regulations, are essential in creating successful multifamily housing projects that cater to the diverse needs of urban dwellers.


  • Multifamily residential – Wikipedia, [2] Design and Construction of Multifamily Buildings – BuildingGreen)

Amenities and Shared Spaces in Multifamily Housing

Amenities and shared spaces in multifamily housing developments play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for residents and fostering a sense of community. These shared facilities often include recreational areas, such as swimming pools, fitness centers, playgrounds, and sports courts. Additionally, communal spaces like clubhouses, lounges, and outdoor patios provide residents with opportunities to socialize and engage in various activities. Some multifamily housing developments also offer practical amenities, such as laundry facilities, parking areas, and secure storage spaces. In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on incorporating sustainable features, such as green roofs, energy-efficient appliances, and waste management systems, to promote environmentally friendly living. Furthermore, mixed-use buildings often integrate commercial spaces, such as retail shops, cafes, and offices, providing residents with convenient access to essential services and amenities within the development itself (Chen et al., 2016; Ruming, 2015).


  • Chen, J., Hao, Q., & Stephens, M. (2016). Assessing housing affordability in post-reform China: A case study of Shanghai. Housing Studies, 31(1), 56-76.
  • Ruming, K. (2015). Urban consolidation, strategic planning and community opposition in Sydney: The case of the Sydenham to Bankstown urban renewal corridor. Australian Planner, 52(2), 108-118.

Ownership and Tenancy Models

Multifamily housing offers various ownership and tenancy models to cater to the diverse needs of residents. Rental apartments are a common model, where tenants lease individual units from a single owner or property management company. Condominium ownership allows individuals to own their respective units within a building, while sharing ownership of common areas and amenities. This model often includes a homeowners’ association (HOA) that manages the shared spaces and enforces community rules.

Another model is cooperative housing, where residents collectively own the entire building or complex and hold shares in a cooperative corporation. Each shareholder is granted the right to occupy a specific unit and participate in the decision-making process for the community. This model fosters a sense of shared responsibility and collaboration among residents. Each of these models offers unique benefits and challenges, making it essential for prospective residents to carefully consider their preferences and financial capabilities before choosing a suitable multifamily housing option (Wikipedia, 2017; Investopedia, 2020).

Rental Apartments

Rental apartments represent a significant portion of the multifamily housing market, offering a flexible and accessible form of tenancy for a diverse range of occupants. In this ownership and tenancy model, the property owner leases individual units to tenants, typically on a monthly or annual basis, with the option to renew or terminate the lease at the end of the agreed-upon term. Rental apartments can be found in various types of multifamily buildings, such as apartment complexes, mixed-use buildings, and brownstones, catering to different preferences and budgets. The rental market plays a crucial role in addressing housing needs, particularly in urban areas where demand for affordable and conveniently located residences is high. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 36% of households in the United States were renters in 2020, highlighting the prevalence of this tenancy model in the multifamily housing sector (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). As urbanization continues to drive demand for rental apartments, property owners and developers are increasingly focusing on providing a diverse range of rental options to cater to the evolving needs of tenants.


Condominium Ownership

Condominium ownership is a form of property tenure in the context of multifamily housing, where individual units within a building or complex are owned by separate parties. This differs from rental apartments, where all units are owned by a single entity and leased to tenants. In a condominium arrangement, each owner holds a title to their specific unit and a shared interest in the common areas, such as hallways, lobbies, recreational facilities, and outdoor spaces. This shared ownership is typically proportionate to the size of the individual unit or its value relative to the entire property. Condominiums can be found in various types of multifamily housing, including apartment buildings, mixed-use buildings, and townhouses. The condominium model offers a balance between the benefits of homeownership, such as building equity and having control over one’s living space, and the convenience of shared maintenance and amenities often associated with apartment living (Furseth, 2018; McKenzie, 2011).


  • Furseth, O. (2018). Condominiums and Cooperatives. In The Palgrave Handbook of Housing Policy (pp. 1-20). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
  • McKenzie, E. (2011). Common-interest housing in the communities of tomorrow. Housing Policy Debate, 21(3), 393-419.

Cooperative Housing

Cooperative housing, often referred to as co-op housing, is a unique form of multifamily housing that emphasizes collective ownership and decision-making. In a cooperative housing arrangement, residents do not own individual units; instead, they own shares in the entire property, which grants them the right to occupy a specific unit and participate in the management of the building or complex. This model fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility among residents, as they are collectively responsible for the maintenance, financial stability, and overall well-being of the property.

In the context of multifamily housing, cooperative housing can take various forms, such as apartment buildings, townhouses, or mixed-use developments. The primary distinction between cooperative housing and other multifamily housing models, such as rental apartments or condominiums, lies in the ownership structure and governance. Co-op residents typically form a cooperative corporation, which owns the property and is governed by a board of directors elected by the residents. This democratic approach to housing management encourages collaboration and active participation in the community, while also providing residents with a sense of ownership and control over their living environment (Chen et al., 2014; Saegert & Benitez, 2005).


  • Chen, J., Saegert, S., & McCabe, B. (2014). Cooperative living arrangements: Housing cooperatives as a strategy for affordable and stable housing. In R. G. Bratt, M. E. Stone, & C. Hartman (Eds.), A right to housing: Foundation for a new social agenda (pp. 223-242). Temple University Press.
  • Saegert, S., & Benitez, L. (2005). Limited equity housing cooperatives: Defining a niche in the low-income housing market. Journal of Planning Literature, 19(4), 427-439.

Multifamily Housing and Urban Planning

Multifamily housing plays a significant role in urban planning as it addresses various challenges faced by growing cities. One of the primary concerns in urban areas is the efficient use of limited space. Multifamily housing developments, such as apartment buildings and mixed-use buildings, allow for higher population density, making better use of available land and reducing urban sprawl. This, in turn, promotes the creation of walkable neighborhoods, reducing the reliance on private vehicles and fostering the use of public transportation, cycling, and walking as primary modes of transportation (Newman and Kenworthy, 1999).

Furthermore, multifamily housing can contribute to social and economic diversity within urban communities. By offering a range of housing options, including affordable rental apartments, condominiums, and cooperative housing, multifamily developments can cater to various income levels and household types, fostering inclusive and diverse neighborhoods (Talen, 2008). Additionally, the integration of commercial and residential spaces in mixed-use buildings can stimulate local economies by providing employment opportunities and supporting small businesses. Overall, multifamily housing is an essential component of sustainable urban planning, addressing issues of land use efficiency, transportation, and social inclusivity.


  • Newman, P., & Kenworthy, J. (1999). Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence. Island Press.
  • Talen, E. (2008). Design for Diversity: Exploring Socially Mixed Neighborhoods. Architectural Press.

Zoning and Building Regulations for Multifamily Housing

Zoning and building regulations for multifamily housing vary depending on the jurisdiction and local planning policies. Generally, these regulations aim to ensure the appropriate density, design, and location of multifamily developments to promote sustainable urban growth and maintain the character of neighborhoods. Zoning regulations typically dictate the allowable land uses, building heights, setbacks, and density of residential developments. For instance, multifamily housing may be permitted in areas zoned for high-density residential use, mixed-use, or transit-oriented development zones.

Building regulations, on the other hand, focus on the safety, health, and welfare of occupants by establishing standards for construction, fire protection, accessibility, and energy efficiency. These may include requirements for minimum room sizes, natural light and ventilation, sound insulation, and provisions for emergency exits. Additionally, regulations may mandate the inclusion of affordable housing units, green building practices, or the provision of communal amenities and open spaces within multifamily developments. Compliance with these regulations is essential for obtaining building permits and ensuring the long-term viability of multifamily housing projects (Furman Center, 2018; Urban Land Institute, 2017).


  • Furman Center. (2018). Zoning for Quality and Affordability. Retrieved from
  • Urban Land Institute. (2017). Multifamily Housing Development Handbook. Retrieved from

Financing and Investment in Multifamily Real Estate

Financing and investment in multifamily real estate can be achieved through various channels, depending on the investor’s preferences and financial capacity. Traditional bank loans, for instance, are a common source of funding for multifamily properties, with options such as commercial mortgages and construction loans available to investors (Mortgage Bankers Association, 2020). Additionally, government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer financing programs specifically tailored for multifamily investments, providing competitive interest rates and flexible terms (Fannie Mae, 2021; Freddie Mac, 2021).

Alternative financing options include real estate investment trusts (REITs), which allow investors to pool their resources and invest in a diversified portfolio of income-producing properties, including multifamily assets (Nareit, 2020). Moreover, private equity firms and institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurance companies, are increasingly allocating capital to multifamily real estate, attracted by the sector’s stable cash flows and potential for capital appreciation (Preqin, 2020). Lastly, crowdfunding platforms have emerged as a popular means for individual investors to participate in multifamily investments, offering access to deals that were previously reserved for institutional players (CrowdStreet, 2020).


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Sustainability and Energy Efficiency in Multifamily Housing

Sustainability and energy efficiency play a crucial role in the development and management of multifamily housing. As urban populations continue to grow, the demand for environmentally friendly and energy-efficient housing solutions has become increasingly important. Multifamily housing developments can contribute to reducing the overall environmental impact by incorporating sustainable design principles, such as green roofs, solar panels, and energy-efficient building materials. Additionally, shared amenities and common spaces in multifamily housing can lead to reduced energy consumption per capita, as residents benefit from economies of scale. Furthermore, sustainable multifamily housing can provide long-term cost savings for both developers and residents through reduced energy bills and lower maintenance costs. In recent years, various certification programs, such as LEED and BREEAM, have emerged to assess and promote sustainable practices in the construction and operation of multifamily housing. These certifications not only serve as a benchmark for sustainability but also add value to the property, making it more attractive to potential investors and tenants (U.S. Green Building Council, 2021; BREEAM, 2021).

Social and Community Aspects of Multifamily Living

The social and community aspects of multifamily living play a significant role in shaping residents’ experiences and overall quality of life. Multifamily housing fosters a sense of community and belonging, as residents often share common spaces and amenities, such as parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities (Chaskin & Joseph, 2010). This shared environment encourages social interaction and engagement among neighbors, promoting a sense of social cohesion and support networks (Coulson & Laing, 2011).

However, the density and proximity of multifamily housing can also present challenges, such as noise, privacy concerns, and potential conflicts among residents (Rosenblatt & DeLuca, 2012). To address these issues, effective property management and community governance structures are essential in maintaining a harmonious living environment (Manzi & Morrison, 2018). Additionally, the design and layout of multifamily buildings can influence social interactions, with well-designed communal spaces promoting positive social experiences (Talen, 1999).

In conclusion, the social and community aspects of multifamily living are multifaceted, with both positive and negative implications. A balanced approach to design, management, and governance can help create a supportive and cohesive community within multifamily housing developments.


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  • Coulson, N. E., & Laing, D. (2011). The effect of neighbourhood quality on friendship formation. Urban Studies, 48(1), 85-100.
  • Manzi, T., & Morrison, N. (2018). Understanding the new hybrid system: Housing associations and market renting in London. Housing Studies, 33(2), 290-307.
  • Rosenblatt, P., & DeLuca, S. (2012). “We don’t live outside, we live in here”: Neighborhood and residential mobility decisions among low-income families. City & Community, 11(3), 254-284.
  • Talen, E. (1999). Sense of community and neighbourhood form: An assessment of the social doctrine of new urbanism. Urban Studies, 36(8), 1361-1379.

Future Trends and Innovations in Multifamily Housing

Future trends and innovations in multifamily housing are driven by the increasing demand for sustainable, energy-efficient, and technologically advanced living spaces. One significant trend is the incorporation of green building practices, such as the use of renewable energy sources, energy-efficient appliances, and sustainable materials in construction. This not only reduces the environmental impact of multifamily housing but also lowers utility costs for residents (Chen et al., 2020).

Another emerging trend is the integration of smart home technology, which allows residents to control various aspects of their living environment, such as lighting, temperature, and security, through connected devices and mobile applications (Mora et al., 2017). Additionally, the growing popularity of co-living spaces, particularly among millennials and young professionals, is reshaping the design and layout of multifamily housing to accommodate shared amenities and foster a sense of community (Ciulla et al., 2018).

In conclusion, the future of multifamily housing will likely be characterized by sustainable, technologically advanced, and community-oriented living spaces that cater to the evolving needs and preferences of modern residents.


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Category: Type of Property