Making America a Friendlier Place for Pets
The Pet Leadership Council’s Pet Friendly Housing Initiative aims to expand the options available to pet owners when searching for a home.
Millennials—21 to 37 years old and 75 million strong in the U.S.—are now the largest pet owning generation, surpassing baby boomers for the first time. They have a different attitude toward pet parenting that is driving the latest trends in pet food, pet accessories and services, and pet retailing. This generation is just entering their peak earning years and will have a profound influence over pet product sales for many years to come.
Millennials have been slower than previous generations to marry, have children and become homeowners—all factors that traditionally lead to pet ownership. According to the Urban Institute, millennial homeownership is 8 percent lower than homeownership rates for Gen X and boomers at the same age. Interestingly, delayed marriage had the most significant impact on millennial homeownership—marriage increases the likelihood of buying a home by 18 percent.
What can the pet care community do to encourage this highly influential generation to become and remain pet owners? One answer is to remove impediments to pet ownership imposed by landlords and rental housing managers. The Pet Leadership Council (PLC), a coalition of the industry’s leading associations and businesses, has embarked on a plan to do just that.
The Pet Friendly Housing Initiative
Many millennials, particularly those with higher education levels, choose to live in high-cost city centers because of job opportunities and urban amenities. Rental housing is a more likely option than home ownership in such areas; but nationally, only 50 percent of rental housing is “pet friendly.” And that term can be misleading, as significant limitations and additional costs often frustrate prospective tenants who own pets.
The PLC has found that the availability of pet friendly rental units is highly variable depending on location. Philadelphia leads the pack with 95 percent of available rental units considered pet friendly. Other cities where landlords are more welcoming of pets include Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Portland, Ore., Denver and Phoenix. Cities such as Nashville, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Dallas are well below the national average, having a much lower percentage of rental housing that allows pets.
PLC’s Pet Friendly Housing Initiative is beginning with pilot programs in two locations—Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio. Both cities have relatively low acceptance of pets in rental housing—just 28 and 38 percent, respectively. The pilot programs will identify replicable strategies and policies that can then be deployed to additional markets. We will target developers and builders, property managers, and renters and homeseekers with information on best practices that address and alleviate concerns about pet-related damage, noise and other perceived problems. The PLC program will complement and align with Mars Petcare’s Better Cities for Pets program.
The case for promoting an apartment complex or townhome development as pet friendly is particularly compelling. Housing that is pet friendly typically commands a rent premium of 20 to 30 percent over units that disallow pets. Tenants in pet friendly rentals stay longer—an average of 46 months, versus 18 months in rentals that prohibit pets. Vacancy rates for pet friendly rentals are significantly lower and receive twice as many applicants as non-pet friendly housing.
Meeting millennials where they live—namely rental housing in urban centers—is essential for the pet care community to encourage and nurture this generation’s love of pets. If you have a retail store or other pet business in Austin or Columbus and would like to help us spread the word about the Pet Friendly Housing initiative, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on this and other PLC initiatives, please visit petleadershipcouncil.org. PB
Steve King is CEO of the American Pet Products Association.