What is Multifamily Housing?

Ken Black
Ken Black
A multifamily housing building.
A multifamily housing building.

Multifamily housing is a type of housing arrangement where multiple households live under the same roof, but in separate units usually having their own private entrances. The term multifamily does not mean the units are reserved only for families, as singles often take advantage of this type of housing as well. Common multifamily housing units include apartments, condominiums, multiplexes and townhomes. Some are rented, and others are bought, depending on the arrangement and the individual property.

Large cites have many multifamily apartment buildings.
Large cites have many multifamily apartment buildings.

Those seeking multifamily housing often come from a wide range of backgrounds. Young professionals still trying to establish careers often choose this form of housing as a convenient way to move in and out of an area as they search for better opportunities. Older couples who's children who have moved out, and who no longer need the space of a large home, could also find multifamily housing an attractive option. Families that cannot afford a down payment on a home or who like having a pool and playground area nearby, also often choose this type of living arrangement.

For those individuals interested in buying a condominium, multiplex or townhome, they may find some other fees associated with ownership. For example, condominiums and townhomes often have association fees, which cover things like enforcement of standards, landscaping, and upkeep of the exterior of the buildings. Therefore, when considering what payment an individual family may be able to afford, it is wise to also consider these other fees as part of that cost.

The benefits of multifamily housing units are numerous. First, the landlord or condominium association often pays for the upkeep of landscaping and amenities. Second, those who need to move can often do so easily, because they do not have any home to sell. Third, these communities are often places for socialization where friendships can easily develop. In some cases, utilities and garbage service may be included in the rent or association fees.

Along with those benefits, there are also some downsides to multifamily housing. Living in close proximity to many others entails a certain lack of privacy. Noise from neighboring dwellings is a common complaint. If one person is being irresponsible, other people's units could be at risk because of water or fire damage. Also, the ability to modify the property is extremely limited, due to the landlord's or association's prohibitions.

Multifamily listings can be found in a number of different places. For rentals, apartment guides for local communities offer one place to start a search. Many apartment complexes also maintain websites, complete with floorplans and pricing for different units. For those looking to buy, multifamily housing units can be found on the multiple listing service (MLS), which can be accessed online or through a local real estate agent.

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Discussion Comments


I'm single so I am not renting multifamily housing because of family. I decided to move in here because I wanted to get away from the city.

The other reason is that it is affordable. Renting in the city to be close to work is really difficult. You will basically get a single room with a shared bathroom when you can rent a condominium 15-20 minutes out of the city for the same price.

Getting to work is not hard either. I drive to the metro station which is five minutes by car. I park my car there and take the metro to work. I'm really happy I moved out here.


I know that some states like California are pushing for programs to build multifamily housing to be made available to families with low income. They want for there to be new housing options for families who have low income and have to rent.

I think this is a good idea. I know that particularly in big cities, many families with low income are forced to live in apartments because these are the only types of housing that have reduced rent for families in financial difficulty. Some of these apartment sites, like those in Chicago, are too high, with too many residences and of course very little space for one family. It's really not possible for people to enjoy a good standard of living there.

I'm glad that multifamily housing will be made available now with comparable rent requirements as apartments. I think it's going to make a big difference. I also hope that other states follow California's footsteps on this project.


I was married with children when I was doing my masters and PhD, so we moved into multifamily housing near the University.

It really worked out great. I could be at campus in a few minutes. My wife and kids enjoyed having a yard and a playground nearby. Our neighbors were also great, mainly masters and PhD students and teaching assistants at the University.

We really felt like at home there. We had barbecues with the neighbors sometimes. Our kids would play with their kids. And since we were so close, we could take advantage of facilities on campus, like the pool and recreational center.

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    • A multifamily housing building.
      A multifamily housing building.
    • Large cites have many multifamily apartment buildings.
      Large cites have many multifamily apartment buildings.