New York-based Retirement Living Services LLC has begun construction of Westchester Meadows, a 120-unit seniors housing complex in Valhalla, N.Y., that will offer a range of care from independent living to skilled nursing. Completion of the $34 million, 210,000 sq. ft. project is slated for winter 2001. Amenities will include a formal dining room and a pool.

Seniors housing executives tepid about industry's future Cautious optimism: That is the outlook of seniors housing CEOs interviewed by the Annapolis, Md.-based National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industries (NIC) and the Washington, D.C.-based American Seniors Housing Association.

The interviews formed the basis of the recently released Survey of Seniors Housing & Care CEOs: Strategy and Operational Plans for the Industry's Top Companies. NIC and ASHA sent out surveys to 120 CEOs; 40 responded.

"Notwithstanding a number of challenges they identified, the CEOs were cautiously optimistic about the future . . .," says the report. "The CEOs' plans and expectations appear to be supported by their recent 'learning curve' experience rather than the unsupported optimism that was common in the early 1990s."

The survey reports that executives have modest expectations regarding capital availability. "The CEOs were somewhat cautious regarding their ability to obtain new capital at a reasonable cost over the next 12 months . . .," says the study. (See graph below for the CEOs' opinions regarding the availability of various kinds of capital.)

On average, each CEO surveyed expects the revenues of his or her company to grow by about 26% in the year 2000. The CEOs project 35% of their individual company's revenue growth to come from new construction and 29% from the acquisition of existing properties.

As for interest rates, 62% of those interviewed believe that debt financing rates will increase during the next year, while 38% feel they will stay the same. No one predicted a rate decrease. The average predicted rate increase was about 2%.

The study covered geographical issues as well, reporting that about 56% and 69% of the assisted living and nursing home markets, respectively, are currently saturated.

The survey did not paint a rosy picture of the industry's employment situation. Approximately 65% of the CEOs said that the industry's labor supply is inadequate. About 15% said it was adequate, and 20% said the adequacy of the labor supply "depends" on the situation.

This survey covers a wide range of topics and is too broad to completely cover here. For those interested in obtaining a full copy, go to www.nic.org and click on the "NIC Bookstore" icon.