August 5, 2021

Catalyst Housing Group and Latch Bring Affordable Living to the Bay Area

Catalyst Housing Group is passionate about transforming traditional multifamily housing. While rents are climbing, cost of living is increasing, and expenses continue to go up and up, many people are struggling to make ends meet. 

“The problem that Catalyst Housing Group wants to solve is to narrow the gap between people's take home pay and the rent that they have to pay in addition to all of their other costs of living expenses,” said Stephanie Fuhrman, head of innovation and strategic initiatives. “We looked at the renewals for certain teachers in one of our communities. The lease that this teacher had signed was 98% of their gross pay. So you think about these teachers, and they can't afford to live anywhere close to where they work,” she added.  

Catalyst is positioned at the intersection of housing, innovation, and impact to help make housing more accessible for their community’s essential workers. At their core, Catalyst Housing Group strives to enhance the lives of each of their residents, strengthen their community, and bring affordability back into apartment living. But they can’t do it alone. 

The San Francisco-based group is passionately tackling the California housing crisis head on by using innovative technology, like Latch, to decrease overhead—ultimately passing that cost-savings onto their residents—giving their residents added flexibility and time-savings.

The Problem

As cost of living increases across the U.S., many people are struggling to make ends meet. So much so, in fact, that 47% of Americans feel that rising costs are a threat to their financial security. Increasing rents across the country—and specifically in dense urban areas—are a large contributing factor, with most Americans spending nearly 40% of their income on housing alone.

The problem is especially dire in California, where the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,923 compared to the national average of $1,711. With sky-high prices, even middle-class families are being pushed out, leading to an overwhelming uptick in poverty and homelessness. California accounts for 12% of the U.S. population—but 25% of its homeless population—largely because of the unattainable home values and rental prices.

Catalyst Housing Group is trying to change that. “In order for communities to thrive, you have to have housing,” said Fuhrman. “You have to provide housing to teachers, veterinarians, doctors, who can't afford to buy a home. And so what we're trying to bridge is the gap between their income today and the rents in the area.”

Oftentimes lowering rent costs to make housing more affordable also results in a decreased focus on resident experience. The Catalyst team, however, strives to deliver a top-notch experience for essential workers, while still lowering their monthly fixed costs. “So any time we can give back to a resident is hugely valuable,” said Laine Gomez, head of asset management. “We really focus on those kinds of partnerships where we can actually give time back to residents. From services to amenities to experience, that's the value that we aim to bring.”

The Solution

To bridge the gap between income and rising housing costs, Catalyst set out on a mission to make apartment living more affordable, even in one of the highest cost of living regions in the country: the Bay Area. 

To achieve this goal, the Catalyst Innovation Lab is focused on incubating, piloting, and scaling innovative technology solutions that drive operating margins and build operational efficiencies. Those cost-savings can then, in turn, be passed on to the tenants to minimize monthly expenses and make housing more attainable for essential middle-income workers.

“We're constantly challenging ourselves to do things differently and better. And that means that we have to find partners who are driven by the same principles and very aligned in that endeavor,” said Fuhrman. “We have to choose partners that have a very strong and aligned vision.”

“We always say, ‘Latch is for everyone,’” said Latch Chief Real Estate Officer Peter Weiss. “Most people think Latch is an unattainable product based on the way it looks, but in reality, we're in Class B properties, garden style Class B properties, and high-end glass and steel towers in urban markets.” Because of the versatility and the ability to streamline operations, Latch became the perfect partner to help Catalyst Housing Group achieve their goals. 

“​​When we sat down and started to look at the design plans to be able to install Latch at older garden style communities, mid-rise newer communities, the process was almost identical,” said Fuhrman. “So we were able to look at how we could implement it across our portfolio, in our garden style communities without WiFi and in buildings with building-wide or just common area WiFi. We are able to apply it across each of those property types, which has a huge impact on how we train our onsite team members.”

The Result

The Latch smart home and smart access modules—including the Latch Intercom and Latch C—were installed at Catalyst’s property Astor in Dublin, California and Arbors in Livermore, California to deliver a more seamless experience for residents—all while minimizing overhead. As a result, after acquiring the 313-unit property, the Catalyst team was able to lower rents immediately due to decreased opex to make them more affordable for the local community. 

But the benefits go beyond cost savings. “Our goal is to provide that quality of living for residents, and we evaluate partnerships that provide value versus evaluating partnerships that improve our bottom line,” said Gomez. “One of the things that is really valuable is time. Everybody is moving a mile a minute, so any time we can give back to a resident is hugely valuable. That's the value that Latch helps us bring.” 

At Aster, Catalyst’s flagship property in Dublin, California, they’ve effectively lowered costs without still delivering a premium resident experience. From amenity spaces like a resort-style pool with cabanas to in-unit amenities like stainless steel appliances and high-end finishes, every detail has been designed with the resident in mind. That applies to the technology solutions, like Latch, that have been integrated to save residents time and deliver unmatched convenience and flexibility. 

Residents aren’t the only ones who benefit from Latch. With the enterprise management platform, Latch Manager, Catalyst’s building staff can remotely oversee the entire portfolio, from granting and revoking access, to handling lockouts, to monitoring smart home devices in vacant units. As a result, operations are streamlined for added cost- and time-savings that empowers the staff to be more efficient. That way, residents, building staff, and guests alike all have the best possible experience.

Fuhrman said, “By rolling out the Latch platform, it's not only giving residents the time and the control that they want, but it is creating efficiency for us in ways that we not only expected, but continue to increase over time.”


Return on Smart Building Investments

Smart building technology delivers a wide range of financial benefits for multifamily owners and operators. From cost efficiencies to improved customer experience, a strategic investment in the right technology solution can positively impact both the cost and revenue sides of the ledger.

There are several different ways to estimate how smart communities achieve ROI. Learn more about the four most popular approaches in our easy-to-read guides.

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