Senior Housing Occupancy Reaches Record Low of 81%

Pandemic-related disruptions drove occupancy down by 6.8 percentage points from the first quarter of 2020.
Chart courtesy of NIC MAP

Senior housing occupancy in the U.S. dipped to a historic low of 80.7 percent during the fourth quarter as the COVID-19 crisis continued to take a toll, according to a new report by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).

Occupancy declined by 1.3 percentage points from the previous quarter’s value of 82 percent, registering a 6.8 percentage point drop from the first quarter of 2020, the new data from the NIC MAP Data Service shows. Among property types, assisted living occupancy fell 1.3 percentage points quarter-on-quarter to 77.7 percent in the fourth quarter, while independent living dropped 1.4 percentage points to 83.5 percent.


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Since March, the onset of the pandemic in the U.S., occupancy in those two categories plunged by 7.4 and 6.2 percentage points, respectively. Nursing care occupancy averaged 75.3 percent in the fourth quarter. Inventory growth also slowed to just 1,626 units added in NIC’s top 31 metropolitan markets, the slowest pace since the third quarter of 2013.

Disruption continues

The latest quarterly declines in occupancy are less steep than in the previous two quarters, but still large by historic standards. Beth Burnham Mace, NIC’s chief economist, noted in a statement that a boost in virus cases from the holidays is expected to create further disruption, although vaccine distribution should offer some relief. During the crisis, move-ins slowed as new safety protocols constrained leasing activity while move-outs were also affected by residents transitioned to facilities offering higher-acuity care.

Results varied widely among metropolitan regions, according to NIC MAP, which found that the West Coast cities of San Jose, Calif., San Francisco and Seattle reported the highest occupancy rates at 88.5 percent, 86.8 percent and 84.8 percent, respectively. Houston, Cleveland and Miami saw the lowest occupancies at 73.5 percent, 76.6 percent and 76.7 percent.

NIC MAP, which tracks data on more than 15,000 properties within 140 metropolitan markets cross the U.S., also found that rents continued to grow last quarter, with overall rent increasing 1.4 percent. Capital markets registered limited activity in the third quarter, the latest quarter for which data is available, which saw roughly $1.1 billion in senior housing transactions.