The year of the great care home revival – Amy France writes for CoStar
Commercial Real Estate Partner and Head of Later Living, Amy France, has written for CoStar on how 2023 is seeing a return to full health for the care home sector, following a period of dramatic drop-off in terms of occupancy rates during the pandemic.
France explains that there are several positive factors that have seen the sector return to pre-pandemic occupancy levels (84.3%, Knight Frank 2022). The first reason is that of the significant growth in our ageing population, with the number of over-65s set to reach 17 million by 2040. “The research suggests that the number of older people’s housing units constructed per year to meet this demand will need to rise from 7,000 to 50,000.”
Beyond the need for more units, there is also a need for better quality units; near to 80,000 have been removed from the sector over the last decade due to them being below standard. “Although some of these have been replaced, overall the number of care home beds in the UK are 5,000 less than five years ago.”
“This growing lack of suitable housing for our ageing population represents an opportunity for investors to improve the lives of older generations, generate both social and financial value, and in turn satisfy the social element of ESG metrics. For example, our client Octopus Real Estate recently became a signatory of the Operating Principles for Impact Management, a global standard for managing investments for impact.”
Long-term resilience is also evident within the sector, with an increased demographic demand and fee rises despite a cost-of-living crisis due to the fact that “the older generation [are] generally wealthier, with more money to spend on better quality care homes.”
France highlights how care homes have consistently produced higher returns than other sectors and so asks: “what are we going to see in terms of delivery as the year unfolds?” She describes seeing a sector that “is emboldened by the significance of government and regulatory support in both the short and the long-term.”
France predicts that the incoming announcement of the Older People’s Housing Taskforce and the proposed updates to the National Planning Policy Framework (coupled with market fundamentals) “should see institutional money continue to flood into the sector.” Further to this, she adds, care home investment has also become popular with foreign investors, particularly when they are fully managed and deliver regular income.
“This is a great opportunity for the real estate sector to improve the lives of older people, achieve stable returns and deliver this much-needed aspect of our community infrastructure.”