Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought devastating occupancy declines and financial challenges for many long-term care operators, privately owned senior housing real estate development firm Griffin Living has continued to experience a boom in demand for its new projects.

At the Griffin-developed Varenita of Westlake Village, an assisted living and memory care community in Thousand Oaks, CA, staff members are preparing to welcome its first residents in March and the community already is fully subscribed and actually has a waitlist, according to David L. Griffin, senior vice president of construction operations at Griffin Living. Varenita of Simi Valley, opening later in the year, is 65% leased.

“Even in this time of COVID, senior care is a necessity for those who require 24-hour assisted living care,” Griffin said. “The alternative for the needs-based segment of assisted living is the same 24-hour care, but provided by in-home staff, which is prohibitively expensive for most families. Consumer behavior is showing that the need for housing that can deliver this care outweighs worry about the pandemic for prospective residents and their families.”

Griffin also noted that although COVID-19 might not affect demand for needs-based senior living, the industry can expect changes because the pandemic has transformed the public’s understanding of infectious diseases in vulnerable populations. 

“One of the measures by which residents and families assess senior housing options is preparedness for outbreaks,” he said. “Griffin Living was ahead of the curve, installing N-95 mask level filtration systems in our senior living communities before anyone had heard of COVID. We have also made significant infrastructure investments in response to COVID, like sanitizing lights on high traffic surfaces and temperature check kiosks at building entrances.”