MIPIM Special Report: Global Healthcare, Seniors Housing Dynamics

A panel of experts at the global real estate conference discusses the robust and widely varied global opportunities in seniors housing and healthcare real estate.

From left: Stéphane Pinchon, managing partner, Your Care Consult, Mel Gamzon, president, Senior Housing Global Advisors; Guillaume Truong, head of investments – healthcare real estate, GECINA; Bromme Cole, president, Hampton Hoerter China

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

With social, economical and demographic shifts occurring all around the world, the question of healthcare and elderly care is becoming more and more of an issue as well as an investment opportunity. And with the unavoidability of aging and necessity of healthcare there is a massive opportunity for growth and expansion for the real estate industry, as well as significant risks. To address the issue, MIPIM 2013’s brought together specialists from three of the largest markets: the United States, China and Europe.


“Nearly nine percent of the world’s GDP is spent on healthcare,” observed  Pichon Stéphane, managing partner for Your Care Consult and the panel’s moderator.  That 8.8 percent, however,  is very much an average. Healthcare spending varies greatly across the globe; North America unsurprisingly leads the list, with 14.5 percent of its GDP going toward healthcare expenditures, Europe’s more prosperous West and North regions spend around 10 percent, the Middle East spends 5.1 percent and Asia spends 7.3 percent.  Whatever the region and  spending pattern, though, the healthcare industry offers growth potential worldwide.

China’s one-child policy, for example, has created the 4-2-1 family structure: four grandparents, two parents, one child. That translates into one caretaker per six people, which puts significant strain on the youngest generation. While the one-child policy has drastically reduced births and artificially created an elderly demographic that is set to soon outnumber the entire population of the U.S., the continuous economic growth has  shaped the young generation into a mindset very similar to their Western counterparts. In a nutshell, young people don’t want children.  And if they do, they delay starting a family.

This impacts the senior housing industry heavily in China. Even though Chinese social conventions hold children responsible for their elders’ care, the young middle class today either cannot take charge of their elders or prefers not to. Bromme Cole, president of Hampton Hoerter China, sees this as an opportunity, since with shifting values, taking care of elders can also start to mean housing them in high-end senior living facilities. These properties are designed for this specific purpose, by developers that have the know-how, rather than players that were forced out of the general multifamily industry. The potential for growth in China is vast, assuming the government refrains from imposing harmful, non-market oriented policies. Cole also predicts that prospects for “value-add” or distressed acquisitions will likely dominate China’s senior living landscape.

And while the senior housing industry is in its infancy in China, the U.S. senior housing industry has grown to a $275 billion business in the past 30 years and is expected to keep growing.  Between 2025 and 2030 the current yearly growth of 18,000 new senior housing units could skyrocket to 77,000 and 82,000 annually.

The senior industry was put on the map by specialized health care REITs that now  occupy three of the top ten REIT slots in the U.S. Furthermore, said Mel Gamzon, president of Senior Housing Global Advisors, during “the five recession years, senior (housing) outperformed all other markets.“ He also predicted that value-add properties are the next logical target for investors because the supply of available Class A senior living assets is running out. Gamzon also emphasizes the necessity of creating mixed-use, inter-generational projects, so as not to cut off the elderly population from the rest of the community, as well as creating independent living communities where residents can focus on preventive health, fitness and wellness.


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