The paint is barely dry on its new senior housing complex in Westwood, but Belmont Village LP is already preparing to open another facility in Thousand Oaks.
Meanwhile, the Houston company is planning to build as many as three additional senior housing communities in the L.A. area.
Indeed, it would seem, L.A.’s most active developer of senior housing is one headquartered some 1,500 miles away.
“From our company’s perspective there is no better market in the country,” said Patricia Will, co-founder and chief executive. “Los Angeles is kind of the epitome of a market that has many more seniors with needs than there is really supply (of housing). It’s a big population with a very discerning customer – tremendous needs across the board.”
The company’s growth spurt is coming at just the right time. With an aging boomer population expected to strain existing senior housing, construction of facilities catering to the elderly is one of the hottest sectors in the real estate market.
But while still sluggish financing markets have hampered some rivals, Belmont Village has managed to keep construction moving forward by tapping into a variety of investors, including General Electric Co., which owned Belmont Village for five years before a management-sponsored buyout in 2007. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is another major investor.
“Our capital has consistently come from institutions that are long term in their orientation and investing,” Will said. “We have been able to continue even in the absence of traditional lending.”
Founded in 1997, Belmont Village opened its first California facility in 2001. In the state, it competes with giants such as Sunrise Senior Living, a McLean, Va., company that pioneered the concept of assisted living in the 1980s and has roughly a dozen facilities in Los Angeles County.
Today, half of Belmont’s 20 complexes are located in California, including a 139-unit Thousand Oaks facility scheduled to open this fall. Will said the company is in predevelopment stages on several other L.A.-area facilities, though she declined to give more details.
Belmont Village has targeted the state and Southern California in particular as a key growth market because of SoCal’s high density of well-off seniors. Southern California has long been an attractive area for retirees because of the warm climate.
“That density of demand is unparalleled any place else in the country,” she said.
Belmont Village’s Westwood facility is its newest and largest. The 169,000-square-foot complex on Wilshire Boulevard, which opened its doors in summer 2009, offers 176 units for independent and assisted living.
But the facility is not for everyone. Living in the luxurious complex – which includes a gym, beauty salon, library and other amenities – is not cheap. While the entrance fee for some luxury facilities can exceed $200,000, Belmont Village charges only a one-time “community fee” equal to two months’ rent for new residents. However, rent can run well over $10,000 a month per unit.
“It’s very expensive to live in assisted living; it’s very expensive to move to a continuing care retirement community,” said Victor Regnier, an architecture professor at USC and expert in senior housing development.
In this economy, he added, it has been tougher to attract tenants to high-end senior housing facilities.
Still, Belmont Village has managed to fill its entire Westwood complex, Will said, in part by differentiating itself through collaborations with local universities. For instance, the company has partnered with the UCLA School of Medicine to improve Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care for the elderly.
“We have forged a terrific relationship with the academic institutions in L.A.,” she said.
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