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Senior Housing Occupancy Ticks Up, And Investors Take Note

Senior housing occupancy has seemingly turned a corner, rising recently from pandemic-driven lows in early 2021. Investors have noticed the trend, and although occupancy isn't back to pre-pandemic levels yet, shares in senior housing owners are also on the rise.


Occupancy for the entire spectrum of senior housing edged up 0.3% in May 2021, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, reporting on a three-month rolling basis, to 79%. That is above its all-time low of 78.7% in March 2021, though the rate is still low by historic standards.

In the skilled nursing sector, occupancy increased for the third month in a row in April, rising 94 basis points from March to end April at 73.2%, reports NIC. Occupancy for the sector is up from a low point in January of 71.3%. 

Sixty-seven of the 99 primary and secondary senior housing markets that NIC tracks have seen an increase in occupancy since March, the organization reports. One example of recovery among senior housing owners is Brookdale Senior Living, which owns more than 700 senior living communities nationwide.

About 93% of Brookdale residents have taken a vaccine, resulting in a 97% drop in coronavirus cases at Brookdale facilities since the peak number of cases in 2020, The Wall Street Journal reports. Total occupancy at Brooksdale facilities is still below pre-pandemic levels, but the rate has ticked upward over the past four months to 71.2%.

Brookdale stock has likewise moved upward this year, recovering from its pandemic-inspired drop. At the beginning of 2021, the company traded for about $4.20 per share. As of Monday, it was up to $8.46 per share, which is slightly higher than it was in February 2020.

Welltower, whose portfolio is about two-thirds senior housing, has risen from about $61 per share at the beginning of 2021 to just over $87 per share on Monday. Just before the pandemic, it was trading for about $89 per share.

CareTrust REIT, whose portfolio is more than 70% skilled nursing facilities and about 20% assisted living or independent living senior housing, has recovered its Covid-era losses; it is up from $21.42 a share on the first day of trading to $23.90 a share on Monday. Before the pandemic, it was trading for a little more than $23 per share.

Ventas, which owns more than 700 senior housing properties (but also a good many healthcare facilities), has seen its stock rise from about $46.80 per share at the beginning of 2021 to more than $59 per share on Monday.