How will senior living soon change? Two ways: more handouts and buyouts.
Currently, an unprecedented number of the industry’s petitioners are begging Congress for a piece of the infrastructure funding pie. And why not? With a pie that big, even a tiny slice can go a long way.
Besides, it’s not like this sector can’t use the money. Thanks to an ongoing pandemic, occupancy is getting crushed, and costs are rising (especially for preventive measures).
So a nice big infusion of fresh greenbacks courtesy of Uncle Sam surely would be welcomed. Even if a few strings are attached. Or maybe even more than a few strings.
Yes, more public funding may be coming. But so too will new rules and stepped up oversight. Get a dog if you want unconditional love. You surely won’t find it in a government contract.
Ironically, assisted living was established largely as a counterpoint to nursing homes, which were (and still are) heavily subsidized and regulated. These days, the former is routinely accepted in senior living, whereas the latter is just a matter of time.
But what are operators supposed to do? Simply perish?
Of course, this acute need for funding also is setting up ideal hunting conditions for the Ephram “Mordy” Lahaskys of the world. In case you didn’t notice, Mr. Lahasky just offered Diversicare Healthcare Services’ shareholders a very sweet deal so he could make the company his own. How sweet? As my colleague Lois Bowers wrote, DVCR was trading for $2.84 a share on Aug. 19. He offered more than $10 a share, or a 256% increase. Talk about an offer that can’t be refused. What shareholders would turn down that kind of return? Certainly not Diversicare’s.
Many operators might fairly be compared with wasp queens who survived a harsh winter by hiding in the insulation, only to stagger out in spring. To say there are lot of motivated sellers in this field would be an extreme understatement. And judging by the hefty signups for this fall’s National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care show, it would appear that many buyers are equally interested in making deals.
How is this going to change the playing field? As I see it, there are going to be three inevitable outcomes.
First, senior living increasingly will become a federally subsidized business.
Second, given the nature of those with the dough, ownership structures likely will get even more opaque and intricate.
Third, many of the people who now own and/or run senior living firms soon will be sailing off into the sunset. Literally.