NIC: Nursing home and assisted living occupancy remained static in 4th quarter

January 12, 2015, Tim Mullaney, McKnights - The occupancy rate for nursing facilities and assisted living facilities held steady in the fourth quarter of 2014, while the rate for independent living continued its surge, according to data released Friday by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.

The nursing care occupancy rate remained at 88.3% and assisted living held at 89.3%. Independent living occupancy increased by 0.4 percentage points from the prior quarter, reaching 91.3%.

On a year-over-year basis, senior housing occupancy trends were positive, NIC officials noted. This reflects rising demand linked to an improving economy and greater consumer confidence, said Chief Economist Beth Mace.

Occupancy also is experiencing "upward pressure" because absorption has outpaced inventory growth for four straight years, noted Chuck Harry, managing director and director of research and analytics.

"However, the underlying trends between the independent living and assisted living subsectors vary," Harry said. "Whereas independent living's annual absorption has outpaced its annual inventory growth by a large margin, that margin for assisted living is significantly narrower and is resulting in a slower recovery in the assisted living occupancy rate, which was essentially unchanged this quarter."

In the nursing sector, fourth-quarter inventory growth was minus-0.3%, and annual absorption was 0.1%. This demonstrates a slowdown, as annual inventory growth was flat in the prior quarter. Annual absorption stood at 0.8%.

Private pay nursing care rents increased 2.7% year-over-year, about the same rate as in the third quarter.