To some demographers, they’re called Generation Y. To other social scientists, this coming generation is classified as Millennials. And at times, you’ll hear them referred to as Echo Boomers.

But a generation by any other name would still be as sweet for apartment owners.

Over the past six months, multifamily ­executive has taken a deep dive into the housing wants and needs of Gen Y, through bimonthly newsletters, ­ ­webinars, a keynote presentation at our annual conference, and, ­finally, here in these pages. Our aim was to gather knowledge, stimulate discussion, and, ultimately, ­inform your approach to capturing this once-in-a-­lifetime tidal wave of renters.

Along the way, an all-star lineup of industry leaders provided insight on how best to capture Gen Y’s hearts and minds. And the publication you’re about to read is a rich minefield of what we’ve unearthed, detailing how developers like AvalonBay, Alliance Residential, and Camden, among others, have approached designing communities for Gen Y residents.

This special edition is organized as a tour through the various stages of development, as seen through the prism of this generation. We start with market research and predevelopment work like site selection, and take you through the design process and into construction. Finally, we’ve given a lot of ink to best practices in leveraging social media and other marketing ploys to meet this generation ­online and reel them in to your leasing office.

But we’ve also brought in some voices from outside the industry—Gen Y financial advisors, marketers, ­demographers, bloggers—to round out the picture and offer an “outside the bubble” view of this generation.

So, what’s all the fuss about? you might ask yourself. Is Gen Y really that different from Gen X? Are their needs so radically distinct? Do I really need to care about what they want?

Yes, yes, and yes.

At 80 million–plus, this is the largest generation in our nation’s history, and they’ve only just begun to wade into the rental pool—the first wave of them turned 25 this year. How they consume media, and how they choose to exercise their purchasing power, is quite different from how Gen X went about things. If you don’t prepare for Gen Y now—if you don’t figure out what they want and how to provide it—you’ll soon be at a steep disadvantage, less competitive, a relic.

This generation is financially strapped, a fact that has in part shaped the micro-unit trend. They’re highly mobile, following jobs into major metro centers and targeting nearby transit, green building, and walkability. And this generation is all about being plugged in, not just to the Internet, but to each other. What they’re looking for is a place to connect—a “Starbucks meets Apple” space, as one developer likes to call their common areas.

Some savvy owners have gotten a head start, bending over backward to fulfill that vision. Free Wi-Fi, iPod docks leading to speakers behind the wall, Wii gaming rooms, touchscreen kiosks to pay rent—say goodbye to the theater rooms and business centers of yore. Some of these features might sound far-fetched, but what’s ­exotic today may be commonplace tomorrow.

So, what’s all the fuss about? You’ll soon find out. The fuss is here.