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Seniors Housing is on the Mend

  • Rents and occupancies are rising in the seniors housing sector.
  • COVID-19 relief funds have further shored up balance sheets.
  • Staffing challenges are front and center for operators today.
  • The industry is consolidating, with a shuffling of ownership.
  • Further stabilization is expected in 2022 as construction eases.

The seniors housing sector is slowly recovering, and rents for both housing and nursing care rose between 2.0%–2.4% in 2021, per NIC MAP data. Absorption turned sharply positive in the second half of the year, aiding occupancies, which are more than 80% in independent living facilities and in the upper-70% range for assisted living and nursing care, though still below pre-pandemic levels. The release of $25.5 billion of COVID-19 relief funds by the Department of Health and Human Services has gone a long way toward shoring up previously challenged balance sheets. 

Two of the most important trends in the sector today surround staffing and the shuffling of ownership. A recent survey by OnShift noted that 80% of respondents said burnout is at critical levels, and 75% had difficulty staffing work shifts. Meanwhile, third-party vendors help manage expenses by providing services in independent and assisted living facilities, keeping residents out of skilled nursing homes. These less-regulated facilities also require less skilled labor than skilled nursing homes. 


Overall investment sales volumes approached $19 billion in 2021, the strongest year since 2015. To combat the challenges of staffing, the biggest owners are growing and diversifying their presence. Healthpeak Properties has sold its seniors housing operating portfolio, pivoting to life science and medical office. Meanwhile, Welltower, Ventas, and Harrison Street have acquired property worth a combined $6 billion in the past 24 months. New investors in seniors housing are finding it challenging to scale up. Larger investments are required for a regional portfolio, while piecing together assets one-by-one from scratch would be time consuming and laborious in this environment. Economies of scale can help with staff shortages, sales and marketing expenses, and management overhead.

The upcoming 12 months look to offer more signs of recovery. Lower construction levels as wages and supply prices rapidly increase will aid existing occupancy. Operators hope for more robust rent growth this year, with rate increases and cutbacks on concessions.

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Aaron Jodka

Director, National Capital Markets Research


As Director of Research | U.S. Capital Markets, Aaron is responsible for all aspects of research within the Capital Markets platform. He synthesizes and interprets a variety of data and information to stay ahead of trends that put our clients in an optimal position to make informed decisions. Aaron promotes the Colliers brand via best-in-class research reports, weekly insight posts, thought leadership, and contributions to numerous panels, media outlets, and industry events.

Aaron collaborates with every team at the firm and wears many hats: in-house economist, advisor, consultant, thought leader, strategic business analyst, presenter, and, of course, researcher. He connects with various industry experts within the Colliers organization to provide a customized solution for each client.

With a deep understanding of markets throughout the country, he provides a unique perspective on market dynamics across asset types and investment strategies, providing clients with tailored data and analytics to ultimately guide decision-making solutions.

Before joining Colliers, he spent 11 years with Property & Portfolio Research (PPR), now CoStar Portfolio Strategy. There, he advised institutional clients on their commercial real estate investment strategies across property sectors and also spoke at industry events, quarterly CoStar webinars, and in front of client audiences. Aaron also led and directed a team of economists who monitored property markets across the United States. Near the end of his tenure, he helped establish a new business unit at CoStar, leading in the hiring, training, and coaching of a team of 50 market analysts. 

Outside of the office, Aaron can be found cheering on his children at their extracurricular activities. He also enjoys hiking, travel, relaxing at home or at the lake, or plugging away at one home project or another. Last but not least, he's an avid fan of Boston sports teams.

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