McCarthy & Stone reports lower coronavirus death rate in its sheltered housing

The UK’s biggest retirement house builder has said the death rate from coronavirus among the over-65s in its sheltered housing is half the national average for that age group.

McCarthy & Stone, which builds and operates retirement homes, has roughly 20,000 residents across 441 sites, with an average age of 84. 

It said on Tuesday that the coronavirus fatality rate among its over-85 residents was one-seventh of the national rate for the same age group.

Its figures stand in stark contrast to UK care homes, which have seen some of the highest death rates from coronavirus. Of the nearly 60,000 excess deaths recorded in the UK in the nine weeks from March 20, almost 25,000 were in care homes, according to the Office for National Statistics.

John Tonkiss, chief executive of McCarthy & Stone, said retirement communities provided a “third way” between independent living and care homes and urged the government to boost investment in housing for the elderly.

“The UK must now learn the lessons from this crisis and redefine how best to support our ageing population. We need a joined-up and long-term plan, starting with more and better housing for older people,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Retirement communities of the type built by McCarthy & Stone are “different from a care home in that there’s less communal sharing and interaction [between residents]. Everyone’s got their own front door,” said Aynsley Lammin, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, which upgraded McCarthy & Stone from sell to hold on Tuesday. 

“The average physical condition of people in their homes is typically much better than in a care home,” he added. 

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In the update on Tuesday, McCarthy & Stone also announced that it would be gradually reopening its sales and building sites from June 8, focusing initially on selling 1,350 homes that it has already completed. 

The company has secured access to the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, which provides loans to large companies for up to 12 months by buying their commercial paper. McCarthy & Stone has secured £300m from the scheme. It has also drawn down a £200m revolving credit facility, and has an available cash balance of £146m. 

“Liquidity-wise, they will be fine without a single sale for two years,” said Mr Lammin.

Shares in the company have fallen precipitously during the coronavirus pandemic, losing more than half of their value since mid-February. 

McCarthy & Stone had been harder hit than other housebuilders because of its reliance on retirees selling their existing homes in order to move in — which became all but impossible after the housing market in England was frozen in late March — according to Mr Lammin.

Tuesday’s announcement that the company would be restarting sales and construction was welcomed by investors, pushing shares up 6 per cent to 76p.



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