Seniors Housing Struggles Will Continue Through Mid-2021, Say InterFace Panelists

With two approved vaccines to combat COVID-19, the end of the pandemic is visible on the horizon. However, some seniors housing experts say it may be the third quarter of 2021 before the sector starts to see the turnaround take hold.

“We have a much clearer picture of what the post-COVID world will look like,” said Adam Heavenrich, managing director of Heavenrich & Company. “The COVID world of 2020 will hopefully look drastically different from the post-COVID world of 2021.”

The comments came during a panel titled “Investment Update: Should Today’s Investor Buy, Sell or Hold?” during France Media’s InterFace Seniors Housing Investment, Development & Operations conference, held virtually in early December.

Heavenrich moderated the panel, which included Kevin Carden, senior vice president of acquisitions, REDICO/American House; Joe Weisenburger, senior vice president and relationship manager, Welltower; Isaac Dole, founder and CEO, Birchwood Health Care Partners; and Curtis King, senior vice president, HJ Sims.

King noted that, while the vaccine is certainly good news, turnaround properties and new construction can expect occupancy woes to continue for the near future.

“We’re saying 2021 is still going to be a very tough year,” said King. “Pre-vaccination news, we were out there lending, looking for good assets, but we really weren’t underwriting anything that had a required a large occupancy increase. That still is the case. 2021 might be a year where you’re more or less treading water.”

Carden echoed King’s estimate that seniors housing numbers won’t improve in the near-term.

“It’s nice to put a pin in exactly where the end is of the pandemic,” said Carden. “That being said, we concur — at least the first half of 2021 is going to be rough. I don’t anticipate a big downswing in the infection numbers until second quarter or maybe third quarter when the vaccine gets traction.”

Dole noted that, while the vaccine is certainly good news, there are still a lot of hurdles and complications to work through before the effect can be seen.

“There are still a lot of variables that are unknown. We still have to navigate the holiday season. The availability of vaccines is another hurdle — we don’t know how many doses are going to be distributed to buildings. And what happens when residents and employees aren’t willing to take the vaccine?”

Weisenburger added that in the long term, there may be some positive effects of this pandemic on seniors housing. For example, the increased use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety protocols could protect residents from other diseases.

“I hope flu seasons in the future should be better than they’ve ever been. Telemedicine in the future will be extremely important to how you set up your building.”

All panel sessions from InterFace Seniors Housing Investment, Development & Operations are available to watch for four weeks after the event. Registration is $215. Click here to register or view the portal if you have already registered.

— Jeff Shaw

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