The AIM Pet Awards, Recognizing the Trend Toward More Pet-Inclusive Rental Housing

Michelson Found Animals and the Apartment Innovation and Marketing Conference are Recognizing the Trend Toward More Pet-Inclusive Rental Housing

By Judy Bellack, Industry Principal, The Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative

For the second year running, Michelson Found Animals Foundation (MFA) is proudly sponsoring the Apartment Innovation and Marketing (AIM) Pet Awards at the upcoming conference this May in Huntington Beach, California. 

So, what are the “Pet Awards,” and why is this a thing?

The Backstory:

As happens so often in the rental housing space, a new concept starts slowly, gaining the requisite early adopters and building momentum, until finally it seems the entire industry is hopping on board. One of the newest industry trends is a movement toward more pet-friendly rental housing free from long-standing (and often arbitrary) size and breed restrictions. This trend also includes creative new pet amenities and services, and often community involvement with adopt-a-pet events and support of local shelters.

Even though 76% of operators consider their communities “pet friendly,” there’s a significant disconnect with renters – 72% of whom say that pet-friendly housing is hard to find. The good news? More and more rental housing operators are recognizing both the powerful marketing advantage and the long-term financial and societal benefits of embracing more pet owners and their pets, regardless of size or breed.

MFA is an animal welfare non-profit that champions pets at every point they intersect with our society. We believe that people and their pets belong together – no matter where they live. Our Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative is focused on making that a reality by providing data-rich resources to demonstrate that pet restrictions can be eased or eliminated without sacrificing safety and with the significant benefit of happy, long-tenured residents who more effectively build a sense of community. 

We wanted to recognize these early leaders in pet-inclusiveness, so MFA reached out to AIM — long known for identifying emerging trends –to see how we might partner.  And viola, the AIM Pet Awards were born.

The Awards:

The AIM Pet Awards are an opportunity for rental housing companies and communities to showcase how they’ve created more pet-inclusive communities. While there will be a special presentation during the conference, award candidates do not need to be present to win, and there is no limit to the number of submissions per company. This year’s awards include: 

  • Most Pet-Inclusive Company
  • Most Pet-Inclusive Community
  • Most Creative Pet-Centered Event
  • Most Innovative Pet Amenity or Amenity Group
  • Most Innovative Pet Marketing Campaign
  • Most Successful Adopt-a-Pet Event or Program
  • Outstanding Pet Citizen Award

What industry leaders are saying:

Again, the industry is realizing that renters love their pets! Our own research shows that renters are willing to compromise on quite a few things – including budget, neighborhood, and distance from work – to stay with their furry family members. 70% of U.S. households have a pet, and that number continues to grow; and with the pet market at over $110 billion in 2022, it’s clear that Americans are heavily invested in their pets. 

Here’s what some industry leaders, including some of last year’s Pet Award winners, are saying about embracing more pets:

  1. David Meit, CPM, Principal of Oculus Realty

Winner, 2022 AIM Pet Awards, Most Pet-Inclusive Community

“I’ve been in property management for 30 years, and traditionally there was a no pet policy. What I’ve learned over the years is that pet ownership is a huge factor in community building. And building community is what generates retention. So, we realized that if we created an environment that really welcomed pets, that would create a fair amount of ‘stickiness,’ or resident retention, in our portfolio. We flipped this switch three years ago by eliminating restrictions, and we’ve never had a problem since then.”

Brooke Atsalis, Director of Marketing and Leadership Development, The Management Group

Winner, 2022 AIM Pet Awards, Most Pet-Inclusive Company

“Within our market we have seen a distinct competitive advantage by having a restriction-free pet policy. Prior to lifting restrictions 5 years ago, our average renewal rate was 50%, very standard to the industry. Being able to say we don’t have a weight limit, no breed restrictions, and no pet rent, we’ve seen our renewal rate among pet-owning residents – which comprise 70% of our units — rise to 80%.”

Steve Bardack, Founder and Principal, Fidus Pet Concierge Communities

“Multifamily has one of the lowest customer-satisfaction (NPS) ratings of any major industry in the US.  Being truly pet-inclusive, along with having sensible community policies, results in more satisfied residents. Having happy residents is good business.”

Karen Kossow, Marketing Director, Paradigm Management

“In the DC Metro Market, we compete with many of the large, national companies who haven’t taken steps to remove breed restrictions. Our communities and their communities are very similar in what they offer from a product and convenience standpoint, so the fact that we no longer have breed restrictions has shown itself to be a distinct competitive edge. Despite the fact that we market “no breed restrictions” on our websites in multiple ways and have included this information in the Q&A on our Google Business Profiles, potential renters are still happily surprised and excited when they ask about breed restrictions and find out that we don’t have any. We have moved in  numerous residents with breeds we wouldn’t have previously allowed into our communities over the past year. To date, we’ve experienced no issues as a result of this change to our pet policy. We will continue to explore ways to market this USP, including our current A/B testing of using a Siberian Husky as our online chat avatar in place of the one we’ve used since we launched.”

Jessica Fern-Kirkland, President, PMG Property Management, LLC

“When considering  the affordable housing crisis, there are so many people who don’t have a choice but to rent right now. Housing is such a basic need. Having shelter is so critically important for individual and family stability. I have two pets and love them dearly, they are such an amazing part of our lives. I can only imagine the types of decisions I would have to make if housing restrictions impacted my pets. At the end of the day, when I look at how we manage from an organizational perspective, it’s about lease compliance.  Whether you’re a person, a guest, or an animal, for us it is simply about behavior. If you can follow the rules, you’re fine.”