Senior housing occupancy decreased 1.3 percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 80.7 percent, a record low, according to new data from NIC MAP® Data Service (NIC MAP) provided by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).

Since the first quarter of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began, occupancy fell by 6.8 percentage points.

“Senior housing occupancy declines were less pronounced in the fourth quarter than the previous two quarters, though the fourth quarter decline is still quite large from a historic perspective,” said NIC’s chief economist, Beth Burnham Mace. “The surge in COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving and Christmas suggests further disruption lies ahead. That said, the recent distribution of the vaccines should soon provide some relief.”

NIC data show large disparities between occupancy rates across metropolitan markets. For instance, San Jose, Calif. (88.5 percent), San Francisco (86.9 percent), and Seattle (84.8 percent) had the highest occupancy rates of the 31 metropolitan markets that make up NIC MAP’s Primary Markets, while Houston (73.5 percent), Cleveland (76.6 percent), and Miami (76.7 percent) recorded the lowest.

NIC said assisted living occupancy fell 1.3 percentage points to 77.7 percent in the fourth quarter, and independent living occupancy dropped 1.4 percentage points to 83.5 percent. Since March, assisted living and independent living occupancy have fallen by 7.4 and 6.2 percentage points, respectively.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted move-ins and move-outs across senior living properties,” said Chuck Harry, chief operating officer of NIC. “Move-ins slowed as operators enacted moratoriums to keep residents safe and as safety protocols limited new leasing activity, while move-outs have been affected as residents moved to higher-acuity care settings.”

Separately, inventory growth slowed sharply for assisted living with 1,626 units added in the Primary Markets, the fewest since the third quarter of 2013.

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