Le Groupe Maurice Eyes U.S. For Expansion, Believes Seniors Want Something New

Le Groupe Maurice has burnished its reputation by developing, owning and operating large senior housing communities in the Canadian province of Quebec — but the company also believes its model would work in the U.S., despite differences between the two countries.

The reason why is simple, according to Le Groupe Maurice Founder and President Luc Maurice: older adults will want something new, no matter where they live. 

Over the last five or six years, Maurice has toured many senior living communities in the U.S., including some “nice products,” he said. But not once did he see a community that closely resembled what the company does up north.

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“Whether you’re an older adult from Quebec, from the rest of Canada, or from the U.S., you want something that is a bit different than what exists right now,” Maurice said during the Senior Housing News event BUILD, which was held virtually this week.

Today, Le Groupe Maurice is poised to expand beyond its current portfolio of more than 30 communities. The company has maintained its high levels of occupancy even through the pandemic, and is ramping up its ability to develop new communities. And, it’s got one major U.S. senior housing player behind it: Ventas (NYSE: VTR), which in 2019 struck a $1.8 billion deal for an 85% stake in the Canadian senior housing developer and operator.

‘Optimizing happiness, minimizing costs’

In looking toward the future, Le Groupe Maurice takes cues from the past. Maurice remembers how he felt passing a senior housing complex under construction while he was earning his post-graduate degree in Edmonton, Alberta.

“I said to myself, I would never send my grandparents there,” Maurice said.

That experience got him thinking about what it would take to build the optimal senior housing community — one that had a reasonable cost, but included everything older adults need to thrive. So, he created a statistical model for measuring happiness among seniors as his college thesis project, which won a prize.

“Optimizing happiness, minimizing costs … my purpose in life was decided right then and there,” Maurice said.

Today, Le Groupe Maurice optimizes the happiness of its residents through its socialization-focused model that delivers a highly amenitized environment at an accessible price point.

A typical Le Groupe Maurice community has between about 300 to 400 units, and in close proximity to retail, restaurants and public transportation. Amenities include golf simulators, bowling alleys, large fitness centers and indoor and outdoor gardens. The company focuses more on the independent living side, with just 900 of its 10,500 units devoted to assisted living.

Le Groupe Maurice also considers its culinary program as a critical component of its operations. Although residents have kitchen facilities in their rooms and do not receive meals as part of their rates, as many as 40% of the company’s residents typically eat in its dining venues.

What makes Le Groupe Maurice stand out from many other senior living options, particularly in the United States, is the company’s ability to deliver upscale environments without charging luxury rates.

A one-bedroom independent living apartment at a Le Groupe Maurice community comes with monthly rates of about $2,000, while a two-bedroom is about $2,800. For an assisted living unit, residents pay rates of about $4,000 to $5,000 a month.

Although that doesn’t include some services, these rates still clock in below those found at many senior living communities in the U.S. Part of that has to do with the scale and design of Le Groupe Maurice’s communities.

“By building a product that is, say, 400 apartments … you can share the operating costs with the larger number of apartments, so that reduces the rent quite a bit,” Maurice said. “[And] by adding a more modern, epicurean type of apartment, you attract a larger group of seniors.”

That group of seniors generally includes people who are well educated, have a good grasp of technology, and while not necessarily wealthy do own homes that are paid off.

The relatively low rates, coupled with the wide client base, has contributed to Le Groupe Maurice’s ability to maintain a high rate of occupancy, even well into a pandemic. Over the last 20 years, the company’s average occupancy rate has hovered around 98%. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit this year, that number fell to 95%.

Looking into the future, Covid-19 will not play a large role in the evolution of Le Groupe Maurice, but only because the company is already constantly reevaluating its offerings as it grows.

“Our product evolves constantly,” Maurice said. “And it will continue to do so, not because of Covid.”

Still, like senior living operators everywhere, Le Groupe Maurice has had to make adjustments due to the pandemic. The company has largely been successful in keeping the virus out of its buildings, and Maurice believes that the longer term effects on operations could be positive, as this experience has added even more rigor to LGM’s processes and procedures.

U.S. possibilities

Looking ahead to future expansion plans, Maurice said the company would like to grow in the U.S. For now, the company has acquired two additional lots on which to build senior housing communities in Ontario.

And while the two countries have a different health care system — Canada’s is publicly funded, whereas the U.S. relies on private health insurance — Maurice does not believe that would ruin the financial math needed to expand in the States.

“Some issues about cost, obviously, are there, [but] we don’t provide care, we provide assistance,” Maurice said.

Whether Le Groupe Maurice will expand in the U.S., the company is gearing up for growth. Currently, the company’s pipeline can support about four to six buildings at a time, representing about $500 million on an annual basis, with a construction timeline of about two years.

“We hope to double that to 10,” Maurice said. “So, some of the States could be a good alternative for that.”

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