By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor
Washington, D.C.—Seniors housing occupancy saw an uptick in the first quarter of 2012, according to the most recent report on the industry by NIC MAP, the data analysis arm of the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC). At the same time, construction activity and year-over-year rent growth slowed in the sector, the report noted.
Overall, the average occupancy rate for seniors housing properties nationwide in the first quarter was 88.4 percent, an increase of 0.2 percentage points from the prior quarter and a 0.8 percentage points up from a year earlier. The average occupancy rate, according to NIC MAP, has risen consistently during the past eight quarters and is 1.3 percentage points above its cyclical low of 87.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010.
With occupancies continuing to rise, the pace of the recovery remains slow but steady, says NIC MAP. The occupancy rate for independent living properties during the first quarter averaged 88.3 percent, while the rate for assisted living properties averaged 88.6 percent. Both independent living and assisted living showed improvement over the prior quarter, rising 0.3 and 0.2 percentage points, respectively.
Rents were up for the quarter, but not as much as during the last quarter of 2011. During 1Q11, the annualized rent growth for seniors housing slowed to 1.2 percent, down from an annualized 1.6 percent during the previous quarter. During the first quarter of 2011, rental growth was also 1.2 percent.
Construction has essentially leveled off in the sector. During 1Q12, the annualized inventory growth rate was 1.2 percent, which is unchanged from 4Q11 and from a year earlier. Current construction as a share of existing inventory for seniors housing was 1.5 percent in the first quarter of this year, which is down from 1.8 percent in the previous quarter.
In the nursing care sector, the occupancy rate was 88.2 percent in 1Q12, which is unchanged from 4Q11, notes NIC MAP. While nursing care occupancy was essentially flat this quarter, it has been marginally declining for several years, but rents are still growing. Private pay rents for the sector grew 3 percent year-over-year this quarter, which is a bit slower than the 3.4 percent pace reported in the fourth quarter of 2011.