The biggest challenge facing families in finding senior housing is finding a way to pay for it, officials said.

Data from the nonprofit group National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care shows that of the senior housing inventory available in Collin County, 86.4% of those units are occupied as of the third quarter of 2022.

Collin County’s occupancy rates for senior housing inventory is stronger than others in the area. Denton County has an occupancy rate of 83.9%, while the Dallas-Fort Worth region has an 83.5% occupancy rate. In the U.S. that rate is 82.2%.

The occupancy rates indicate the strength of the need for senior housing units, NIC Senior Principal Caroline Clapp said. For Collin and Denton counties, those rates have exceeded where they were before the pandemic.

Developers are looking to cater to this market with at least three McKinney senior housing projects in the works.

The first project site is on 12.9 acres at the southwest corner of Alma Drive and Collin McKinney Parkway, and includes an estimated 216 senior housing units. The project was approved by McKinney City Council in August.

Another senior living development, called Watermere at McKinney, is set to begin construction next year on 12.6 acres. This project is located at 3361 Virginia Parkway.

Meanwhile, construction is well underway for a new 81-acre retirement community called Touchmark at Emerald Lake. The project is located at the southwest corner of Virginia Parkway and Hardin Boulevard, and is set to open in 2023.

“The new supply that you’re seeing coming into the market is probably in response to the demand that we’ve seen since the pandemic as well as anticipated future demand,” NIC Chief Economist Beth Mace said.

Paul Markowitz, founder of Senior Living Specialists, said his business has been actively working to place more seniors in homes. Senior Living Specialists offers free referral services to connect seniors with housing options in the Dallas-Fort Worth region that are best for them. It usually fielded about 350-375 phone calls a month before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022 the company is receiving between 425-450 calls every month, Markowitz said.

As the franchise owner for Oasis Senior Advisors in the North Dallas suburbs, Olia Davis said her job is to find living spaces for seniors. The biggest challenge in the area is the availability of lower-income housing.“We have three communities that are income subsidized in the area, but they have like a two-year waitlist,” she said. “So if you have someone that is looking for an apartment for less than $1,000 or less than $1,400, there just isn’t anything for them in the area.”

Living costs also increase when it comes to finding places where older adults can receive care, she said.

“Any families that are looking for assisted living or memory care that don’t have sufficient income, they will need to go on Medicaid,” Davis said.

Davis looks throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area to find the right community among the hundreds available for her clients, she said.

Both Mace and Davis pointed out that the baby boomers, or the generation of people born between 1946 and 1964, are also aging, and will continue to need more senior housing units.

“The demand for housing and care options is just going to grow as time goes on,” Mace said. “And then there’s of course a huge need to create more affordable products as well.”

Davis said she is usually able to find a place for someone as long as they have the budget. But if a person is restricted by their income, they may have to find affordable housing elsewhere.

“Collin County just doesn’t have a lot of low lower income options for our seniors,” she said.