NIC Chief Economist Beth Burnham Mace

Occupancy at U.S. senior living communities — including independent living and assisted living communities — reached an all-time low of 80.7% in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to data released Thursday by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care’s NIC MAP Data Service.

The record represents a 1.3 percentage point drop from the third quarter, when occupancy was 82%. From the first quarter to the fourth quarter of 2020, occupancy fell by 6.8 percentage points. Fourth-quarter occupancy is at its lowest level since NIC began keeping records in 2006, NIC Chief Economist Beth Burnham Mace told McKnight’s Senior Living. And things may get worse before they get better.

“The surge in COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving and Christmas suggests further disruption lies ahead,” Mace said. “That said, the recent distribution of the vaccines should soon provide some relief.”

Although “still quite large from a historic perspective,” senior housing occupancy declines were less pronounced in the fourth quarter than in the previous two quarters, Mace said.

Individually, independent living and assisted living occupancy also reached record lows, Mace said.

Assisted living occupancy fell 1.3 percentage points to 77.7% in the fourth quarter, and independent living occupancy dropped 1.4 percentage points to 83.5 %. Since March, assisted living and independent living occupancy has fallen by 7.4 and 6.2 percentage points, respectively, according to the NIC MAP data.    

Inventory growth, however, slowed “sharply” for assisted living, with 1,626 units added in the 31 primary markets that NIC follows, the fewest since the third quarter of 2013.

Editor’s note: Read a follow-up article here.

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