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The senior housing and care industry has appointed its first chief economist, Beth Burnham Mace.

Mace joined the National Investment Center as its top economist and as director of capital markets outreach earlier this month. Prior to joining NIC, Mace was a director with AEW Capital Management in the firm’s research group.

She has been involved with NIC for more than 10 years in various roles such as helping collect data on market fundamentals. “And 10 years later we have a database called NIC Maps,” she said. NIC MAP provides data and analytics on independent living, assisted living, memory care, nursing care and continuing care retirement communities. Thanks to initiatives like NIC Maps, “senior housing is a newer sector that’s becoming more of an institutionally accepted asset type in terms of investment opportunities,” Mace said.

Mace said her goal at NIC is to help improve transparency in the sector and see “senior housing become one of the more traditional commercial real estate investment property types for both equity and debt providers,” adding that creating the NIC Maps database increased the transparency of market fundamentals within senior housing to investors.

“It’s easier for an investor to get comfortable with more transparency and a better understanding of the basic supply and demand,” she said. “In the past, there also wasn’t data that looked at the actual transaction activity on a very broad and comprehensive way with quantitative analysis – who the big players are, what the pricing is, who the buyers and sellers are. …Now we have that information.”

“We want to facilitate informed investment decisions through creation of excellence in data and analysis,” said Mace, who spoke last month on the topic at the Massachusetts chapter of ALFA.

In her role as capital markets director, Mace said she plans on describing and explaining the senior housing industry to new capital providers. “There’s a lot of perceived risk investing in a smaller niche sector,” she said.

“I personally think that it’s a really exciting sector to be in with a lot of growth opportunities,” she said. “…The share of people currently over 75 living in senior housing has a great potential to grow and it becomes more understood as a lifestyle choice. There are also fewer adult children to care for seniors and the need for this type of living situation will arise as we go forward.”

NIC last week released senior housing data for the first quarter of 2014, showing an occupancy rate for assisted living communities at 89.1% and 90.2% for independent living communities, both a slight uptick when compared to the prior quarter.

“We’re at the beginning of a pretty long positive growth trajectory for the sector,” Mace said.


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