From about 50% to greater than 90% occupancy is the impact that broadband as an amenity has had on the Stoneridge Apartments. In the above video, Brittany Hustad, Project Manager Corporate Services for Dominium, explains that earlier efforts at rehabilitating various Stoneridge amenities failed to drive occupancy rates. It was the inclusion of broadband as part of the rent that drove occupancy rates.
That this amenity is highlighted in bold (“free community wide+ in-home Wi-Fi”) on their home page is evidence that broadband is an important amenity to potential tenants. It also is clear from their pitch that potential tenants believe Wi-Fi is broadband.
One reason that this amenity may have greater value to potential tenants, compared to others, is that Stoneridge’s target market is the “missing middle”.¹ That is, the Stoneridge Apartments participates in an affordable housing program, whereby household income & student status limitations apply. Included as part of the rent, the tenant effectively sees a monthly savings compared to an ala carte approach to broadband.
Hustad indicates that they were able to add this amenity without raising rental prices. PCs for People, the MN non-profit, is Dominium’s partner that operates and maintains the network.² They are expecting a three to five-year return on the investment in infrastructure. From the positive results they are seeing, it would not be surprising if broadband (Wi-Fi) as an amenity is soon seen as a must-have.³
¹ In this case, the term “missing middle” loosely means those people with an income above poverty level, but below what is necessary to afford a house or rent payment in a specific location. In California, a 2020 CalHFA program defined the missing middle as people making from 60% up to 120% of the Average Median Income for a given area. Note, a similar term, “missing middle housing“, is associated with housing density and walkable neighborhoods.
² CTC, the rural MN broadband provider, gave an overview of its work with PCs for People to renovate PCs for customers, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them, in this 2011 Viodi interview.
³ Sean Buckley provides additional detail about the network architecture (fiber to the building, in-building transmission via MoCA and existing coaxial cable) as well as quotes from PCs for People in this excellent Broadband Communities article about Stoneridge Apartments’ broadband amenity.