CFAA 2024 Recap

By on Jun 18, 2024 in Events, Global

The Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations (CFAA) hosted its annual conference in May located in Toronto. This year’s theme, “Building Communities Together,” highlighted the urgent need for collaboration and innovation in the multifamily housing sector. As the industry grapples with longstanding status quo and historically low vacancy rates, stronger partnerships are essential to address Canada’s housing challenges. This event provided a crucial platform for fostering discussions on these pressing issues and exploring prospects for the multifamily housing industry.

The Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations (CFAA) hosted its annual conference in May located in Toronto.

As a strategic partner and sponsor, Yardi played a pivotal role in the event, contributing to multiple sessions and sharing valuable expertise on various aspects of property management and technology integration.

Day 1: Innovations in urban living & industry insights

The conference kicked off with a series of building tours, including notable properties managed by Tricon Residential, Minto Apartments and Stackt Market. These tours highlighted new practices in real estate management and provided a practical understanding of how modern technology enhances building operations and resident satisfaction. One standout visit was to Stackt Market, a vibrant community space designed entirely using shipping containers. Stackt Market exemplifies how innovative design can create dynamic community spaces, fostering a sense of community while maximizing the use of urban space.

Yardi’s own Parisa Vafaei, director of sales, led a session that delved into the findings of the latest Yardi Multifamily Report, highlighting the necessity for innovative ideas and new partnerships as more units are expected to come into the market to address Toronto’s low vacancy rates. “The vacancy rate in Toronto for Q1 2024 is 2.5 percent, indicating a tight rental market,” Vafaei noted. The report also revealed that Toronto has one of the lowest annual turnover percentages among Canadian census metropolitan areas (CMAs) at 11.6 percent and a lease-over-lease rent growth for new leases of 15.5 percent. These metrics show the critical need for strategic planning and collaboration to manage demand, improve housing availability and maintain affordability in the multifamily housing sector.

Day 2: Thought leadership and technological innovations

The second day featured key industry leaders, including the mayor of Toronto. Peter Altobelli, vice president of Yardi Canada, led a session on “Leading the Way: The Next Generation,” focusing on workforce management. This session reviewed aligning company values with new talent, fostering mentorship and offering structured career development.

The panel discussion highlighted new expectations of the emerging workforce. “Today’s talent is entrepreneurial and ambitious,” one panelist noted. “They interview employers as much as we interview them. While they have technical skills, we seek soft skills. They want autonomy, decision-making roles and alignment with company values.”

The discussion stressed the importance of providing broader perspectives, growth potential and dedicated time for succession and leadership planning. Innovative strategies to attract new Canadians were also highlighted, with Fritzrovia’s rotational program standing out for its unique approach. This program helps retain talent by moving individuals through various roles and departments over a set period of time.

Emphasizing resident experience and partnering with firms that share ESG commitments were noted as crucial. “Transparency about these commitments is key to attracting talent,” added Courtney Chisholm, project manager at Fitzrovia. Structured onboarding and new technology were also highlighted as critical for maximizing talent contributions.

Evolving property management

One of the most anticipated sessions was “The Crystal Ball of AI: Leveraging Data & AI for Predictive Insights in Property Management,” moderated by Meherzad Bakht, senior sales manager for Yardi. This panel discussed the transformative impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics in the multifamily housing sector.

Killam Apartment REIT covered the benefits of generative AI technologies, such as chatbots and automated crm systems, to streamline interactions with prospects and residents, enhancing efficiency and improving response times. QuadReal Property Group shared their use of biometrics to authenticate applicant identities before a tour as a new first step for fraud prevention. simplydbs’ survey of 20,000 Canadians revealed renters want their next unit to be accessible by a single app, from managing leases, payments, communications and utility consumption. The underlying theme: A seamless lead to lease journey will retain and build quality communities.

With the rise of proptech options, QuadReal emphasized the importance of protecting data integrity and ensuring compliance with Canadian laws. By aggregating data from a single source of truth, property managers can better safeguard their data and gain meaningful insights that support informed decisions. This approach also benefits staff by automating repetitive tasks, such as leasing agreement assessments, where AI has shown high accuracy in reading data and providing useful outputs, allowing staff to focus on more complex and value-added activities. The importance of human touchpoints remains evident.

Finally, the panel reviewed how the industry will benefit most by partnering with leading technology providers who are investing in AI and leveraging vast amounts of data to enhance their product offerings. By mapping out the resident journey and understanding community dynamics, property managers can use AI to improve resident experiences and operational efficiency.

Shifting marketing strategies for success

Brooklyn Lewandowski, senior account executive for REACH by RentCafe, panelist of the “Rental Rockstars: Marketing and Leasing” session, shared innovative strategies for attracting and retaining residents. The discussion included leveraging digital tools for virtual tours, the importance of a robust online presence and the role of community engagement in building resident loyalty.

When it comes to internet listing services (ILS), detailed and accurate listings are essential. Lewandowski emphasized the value of high-quality interior photos, noting that 78 percent of Canadia renters prioritize these when searching for a new home. Additionally, the same number of Canadian renters found property comparisons helpful in narrowing their search. Providing clear descriptions of unit features, amenities and unique selling points, along with consistent listings, aids in decision-making. Ensuring your listings are comprehensive and visually appealing not only attracts more potential renters but also helps them make more informed and confident decisions.

The session also highlighted creative community engagement ideas, such as organizing pet events, sports watch parties and garden walls, which can be shared on social media to foster a sense of community. Brooklyn stressed the importance of showcasing amenities beyond the building’s four walls and promoting nearby walkable attractions on property specific websites and social media.

Responding to online reviews, both positive and negative, is crucial. Utilizing QR codes to direct residents to review platforms can streamline this process. It was also mentioned that tech-enabled resources can free up time for initiatives like a resident appreciation week, which can further enhance community engagement and loyalty.

As a final tidbit, the panel strongly suggested highlighting aspects like the application process, lease terms and resident benefits to help renters make informed choices about your property. These strategies collectively create more compelling and effective apartment listings that attract and convert potential renters.

Altobelli receives Lifetime Achievement Award

A highlight of the day was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Peter Altobelli, an honour bestowed by the CFAA to recognize outstanding contributions and dedication to the multifamily housing industry. This prestigious award acknowledges individuals who have significantly shaped the industry through their vision and commitment.

In his heartfelt acceptance speech, Peter reflected on his extensive career and the factors that have driven his success. “Your mindset needs to go beyond just selling technology; anyone business can do that. To excel, you must get involved in the industry, understand the current and future needs of your clients and their clients. There’s no magic book or website, then and now you must physically meet people and do this across the country. Passion is crucial in every organization and market. Your passion in real estate and property management drives me because you’re not here to provide housing, you provide homes and that’s an honourable thing to do. You are all honourable people, and we are honoured to work with you. I am honoured to be involved with you.”

Altobelli’s dedication and innovative foresight have significantly shaped the landscape of property management, making this recognition well-deserved. His humble acknowledgment of the industry’s collective effort and his passion for providing homes underscore the values that have guided his remarkable career.

Day 3: Streamlining a path to leases

The final day featured a session on “Leveraging Technology to Turn Prospects into Leases Faster Than Ever Before” with Meherzad Bakht on the panel. They began with the evolution of proptech over the past five to seven years, highlighting the shift from on-site to cloud-based solutions and the acceleration of tech adoption during the pandemic. However, challenges remain, such as the lack of centralization in leasing processes. Canadian real estate businesses often struggle with fragmented touch points and data, which slow down operations and increase opportunities for human error.

Innovation in the leasing process was exemplified by tools like ID Verify, which uses biometrics to verify tenant applications IDs before scheduling a tour. Predictions for the next five years include the growing influence of social media as a driver of leasing leads and the potential decline of traditional ILS platforms in favour of enhanced property websites.

To stay ahead, property managers need to strategically map out their technology needs and involve their staff in the adoption process. This approach ensures smoother transitions and better management of change. As the panel pointed out, using AI in property management is akin to using a calculator for math — it enhances efficiency but still requires human oversight to operate effectively. By embracing these technological advancements, property managers can create more seamless and efficient leasing experiences.

Building a resilient future together

The CFAA 2024 conference was a testament to the multifamily housing industry’s commitment to innovation and excellence. Our active participation throughout the event showcased our dedication to providing cutting-edge solutions that address the evolving needs of property managers and residents alike. As Canada continues to navigate its housing challenges, events like CFAA play a crucial role in shaping a more resilient and responsive housing market.

Stay tuned for more updates and insights as we continue to drive innovation in the multifamily housing sector. Join us at our next event in your area by checking our events list.