Independent Living Winning Race for Senior Housing Occupancy Recovery

Senior housing occupancy is recovering across the board, but the pace of that recovery varies depending on campus type, according to the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC), and so far, independent living is winning the race.

The first quarter of 2010 saw the senior housing occupancy rate dive to a cyclical low of 87%, but by the second quarter of this year, that had risen to 88.6% across the top 31 metropolitan markets—an increase of 30 basis points from the prior quarter, and 160 basis points above the cyclical low. 



While freestanding independent living communities saw the steepest declines in occupancy during the recession, they have subsequently experienced the strongest recovery, says NIC. Following a nearly 800 basis point decline to its cyclical low, this campus type has experienced a 520 basis point return, including a 300 basis point increase during the past year alone. 

Assisted living, on the other hand, was more resilient in terms of occupancy throughout the economic downturn, with a 300 to 350 basis point decline depending on campus type. Freestanding memory care communities stand out as an exception, says NIC, as it experienced a 560 basis point decline that was mainly supply-related as supply has grown at an annualized pace of 3.5% in the past four years—”far above the pace of other seniors housing property types.” 

With independent living recovering the quickest, and assisted living not experiencing too drastic of a decline, that leaves continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) with the short end of the stick in terms of regaining occupancy ground. 


“CCRCs have not yet begun to participate in the recovery, with occupancy oscillating near its cyclical low since the third quarter of 2010,” writes NIC. Occupancy stood at 88.9% by the second quarter of 2012, unchanged from the previous quarter and only 20 basis points above its cyclical low reached during the third quarter of 2010. The rate remains 480 basis points below the previous cyclical high. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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