Senior Housing Occupancy Decreases Sharply in Second Quarter Due to COVID-19

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Beth Burnham

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Senior housing occupancy fell 2.8 percentage points in the second quarter of 2020 from 87.7 percent to 84.9 percent, according to new data from NIC MAP® Data Service (NIC MAP) provided by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).

NIC experts said this is the largest quarterly decline since data reporting began 14 years ago, making this quarter’s occupancy rate the lowest on record.

The only two markets with occupancy gains between May and June per the recently released monthly reporting were Sacramento and Cleveland, increasing to 85.4 percent and 84.5 percent, respectively. Atlanta and Denver experienced the largest occupancy losses during the same time period, while Orlando and Riverside, Calif. occupancy was unchanged.

San Jose (92.3%), San Francisco (89.5%), Baltimore (89.0%), and Tampa (87.5%) had the highest second quarter occupancy rates of the 31 metropolitan markets that comprise NIC MAP’s Primary Markets, while Houston (78.5%), Atlanta (78.9%), and Las Vegas (81.4%) recorded the lowest.

Among different types of senior housing, assisted living occupancy decreased 3.2 percentage points to 82.1 percent during the quarter, while the occupancy rate for independent living decreased 2.4 percentage points in the second quarter to 87.4 percent.

“COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting the older, frailer residents of assisted living properties, many of whom suffer from multiple chronic conditions,” said Beth Burnham Mace, NIC’s chief economist. “It’s understandable why assisted living occupancy dropped at a greater rate than independent living in the second quarter.”

NIC MAP’s Intra-Quarterly data show that the largest occupancy decline occurred in April, during the first full month of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. That month, occupancy fell 1.5 percentage points to 86.2 percent. The decline lessened in May (0.8 percentage point to 85.4%) and pulled back further in June (0.5 percentage point to 84.9%). This pattern is consistent with findings from NIC’s Executive Survey.

“The worst of the senior housing occupancy decline is seemingly behind us, but setbacks are likely far from over,” said Chuck Harry, NIC’s chief operating officer. “Many properties still lack access to personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing to keep residents and caregivers safe. Property operators and policymakers continue to need reliable data to make the best decisions, especially in states and cities that eased social distancing restrictions this summer and are already seeing major spikes in illnesses.”

NIC MAP’s Primary Markets saw 15,471 new construction starts in the last four quarters, the fewest new starts since 2014. NIC experts expect the trend to continue during a period when social distancing and mandatory stay-at-home orders have prevented new construction in many areas.

A summary of the NIC MAP Data Market Fundamentals for 2Q20 is below. Visit NIC’s COVID-19 Resource Center at NIC.org.

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Source: 2Q20 NIC MAP Data Market Fundamentals

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