Data for the second quarter of 2020 show senior housing occupancy fell 2.8 percentage points from the first quarter’s 87.7 percent to 84.9 percent, the largest quarterly drop since data collection started 14 years ago, according to the NIC MAP® Data Service (NIC MAP) provided by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).

The harshest declines in occupancy occurred in April, the first full month of the pandemic in the U.S. NIC MAP’s Intra-Quarterly data show that in April occupancy fell 1.5 percentage points to 86.2 percent. The decline lessened in May (0.8 percentage point to 85.4 percent) and pulled back further in June (0.5 percentage point to 84.9 percent).

This pattern is consistent with findings from NIC’s Executive Survey.

“The worst of the senior housing occupancy decline is seemingly behind us, but setbacks are likely far from over,” said Chuck Harry, NIC’s chief operating officer.

“Many properties still lack access to personal protective equipment [PPE] and COVID-19 testing to keep residents and caregivers safe. Property operators and policymakers continue to need reliable data to make the best decisions, especially in states and cities that eased social distancing restrictions this summer and are already seeing major spikes in illnesses.”

Since the crisis began, advocates for the long term and post-acute care profession at the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (ACHA/NCAL) have pushed for more PPE for staff and increased testing of staff and residents. Just last week, AHCA/NCAL released a survey of its members that named lengthy lab processing times as the top barrier to running programs to gauge virus infections at skilled nursing centers and assisted living communities.

In the NIC report, the group said the only two markets with occupancy gains between May and June per the recently released monthly reporting were Sacramento, Calif., and Cleveland, increasing to 85.4 percent and 84.5 percent, respectively, NIC said.

Atlanta and Denver saw the largest occupancy losses during the same time period, while Orlando, Fla., and Riverside, Calif., occupancy was unchanged.

San Jose, Calif. (92.3 percent), San Francisco (89.5 percent), Baltimore (89.0 percent), and Tampa, Fla., (87.5 percent) had the highest second quarter occupancy rates of the 31 metropolitan markets that comprise NIC MAP’s Primary Markets, while Houston (78.5 percent), Atlanta (78.9 percent), and Las Vegas (81.4 percent) recorded the lowest.

Among different types of senior housing, assisted living occupancy decreased 3.2 percentage points to 82.1 percent during the quarter, while the occupancy rate for independent living fell 2.4 percentage points in the second quarter to 87.4 percent.

Earlier this week, NIC said in a separate report that occupancy levels in skilled nursing centers was at 78.9 percent in April, compared to 84.7 percent just two months earlier and 84.4 percent one year ago.

“COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting the older, frailer residents of assisted living properties, many of whom suffer from multiple chronic conditions,” said Beth Burnham Mace, NIC’s chief economist. “It’s understandable why assisted living occupancy dropped at a greater rate than independent living in the second quarter.”  

NIC MAP’s Primary Markets saw 15,471 new construction starts in the last four quarters, the fewest new starts since 2014. NIC experts expect the trend to continue during a period when social distancing and mandatory stay-at-home orders have prevented new construction in many areas.

Read more at NIC’s COVID-19 Resource Center at