NIC: Rough road ahead for independent living?

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NIC: Rough road ahead for independent living?
NIC: Rough road ahead for independent living?

Data released Wednesday by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care's MAP Data Service indicate a potentially rough road ahead for independent living operators.

“By property type, it is notable that independent living's annual absorption rate slowed, while its annual rate of inventory growth is accelerating,” said Beth Burnham Mace, chief economist for NIC. “The annual absorption and inventory growth rates for assisted living are decelerating, although the pace of activity is still stronger for assisted living.”

What's around the bend? “If this pattern continues, it suggests that there will be additional downward pressure on occupancies for independent living in the near future,” Mace said.

The occupancy rate for independent living properties averaged 91% during the second quarter, according to NIC, down 0.3 percentage points from the previous quarter and 0.4 percentage points from its eight-year high in the fourth quarter of 2015. Second-quarter occupancy for independent living was unchanged from year-earlier levels.

The occupancy rate for assisted living properties averaged 88% during the second quarter, down 0.2 percentage points from the first quarter but up 0.1 percentage points from year-earlier levels.

Overall, according to NIC, net additions in seniors housing inventory outpaced the absorption of units, leading to a drop in the average occupancy rate for properties to 89.7% in the second quarter. The change represented a decrease from the 90% level seen in the first quarter, and it matched year-earlier levels.

During the past three years, the average seniors housing occupancy rate has been 89.8%. As of the second quarter of 2016, occupancy was 2.8 percentage points above its cyclical low of 86.9% during the first quarter of 2010.

Other highlights of the latest NIC data:

  • Annual asking rent growth was 3.2% during the second quarter of 2016, which was 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous quarter's pace and 0.8 percentage points above its pace one year earlier, during the second quarter of 2015. This growth rate was the fastest jump since the second quarter of 2008.

  • Annual absorption was 2.3% as of the second quarter of 2016, compared with 2.5% during the first quarter of 2016 and 2.1% one year earlier, during the second quarter of 2015.

  • Annual inventory growth rate in the second quarter of 2016 was 2.3%, down 0.3 percentage points from the previous quarter.

  • Construction as a share of existing inventory for seniors housing slowed 0.1 percentage points to 5.6% as of the second quarter of 2016, although it is still up 0.5 percentage points from the second quarter of 2015.

Construction starts during the second quarter of 2016 preliminarily totaled 3,657 units, including 1,890 independent living units and 1,767 assisted living units. On a four-quarter basis, starts totaled 18,022 units, the weakest pace since the fourth quarter of 2014.

“This construction cycle had been dominated by starts of assisted living units until this quarter,” said Chuck Harry, NIC's chief of research and analytics. “During the second quarter, starts of independent living units doubled from that of the prior quarter and surpassed assisted living unit starts, which declined by roughly one-third from their level during the prior quarter.”

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