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Report reveals threat of looming seniors housing crisis

Australia will face a seniors’ housing crisis without “urgent change” to state and local planning systems to enable the development of more retirement villages, according to new research commissioned by the Property Council of Australia.

The report warns of a looming shortfall in retirement housing in the face of an over 65s population that is expected to double in the next ten years.

The report’s authors warn that a shortage of retirement living places will mean taxpayers have to foot the bill for much higher aged care costs.

Currently, retirement villages generate $2.16 billion of budget savings annually.

The research by RPS recommends a suite of actions including setting retirement living housing targets, fast-tracked approvals and making retirement living a permissible development in all residential zones.

Without such changes, investment in new retirement villages will stagnate, leaving older Australians with fewer housing options that support healthy ageing and independent living.

“The rapid increase in the number of older Australians needs to be matched by an increased determination by politicians and town planners to support the development of more seniors housing,” said Mary Wood, Executive Director – Retirement Living.

“Purpose-built homes in retirement communities that are well located and expressly designed to support older Australians to be happy, independent and socially engaged is an important goal – but not one that our planning systems are well placed to achieve.

“By 2025, the demand for retirement living accommodation for people aged over 65 years is expected to double. But at the current rate of development, there simply will not be enough supply of retirement communities to meet demand.

“Land use policy is the single most important lever that governments have to support the development of more retirement villages where they are needed.”

The report contains a suite of recommendations for state and local governments, including:

  • Policies that incentivise the integration of villages with the general community;
  • Development yield improvements including car parking flexibility, landscape area reductions and lower open space infrastructure charges; and
  • Rate rebates for retirement village dwellings.

RPS Director Désirée Houston-Jones said taxpayers will face higher aged care costs if retirement living developments are not supported by policy makers.

“The ageing population is a huge issue and it is absolutely vital that we put plans and policies in place now,” Ms Houston-Jones said.

“Just as our society makes provision for other social needs, such as schools, hospitals and public transport, so too do governments at all levels need to act quickly to facilitate more retirement villages in the locations where older Australians want to live.”

Ms Wood added, “Studies show that retirement villages generate $2.16 billion of savings annually, by delaying the entry of residents to aged care facilities, and ensuring fewer and shorter hospital stays.

“Villages also take the load off local infrastructure – there is less need for councils to provision for sewerage and water, libraries, community centres and sports facilities, as well as lower traffic generated and fewer car parking demands.

“Aged care enjoys significant subsidies from government as well as a raft of land use and tax policy support. All retirement village owners and developers need in order to build more is land use policy that facilitates rather than hinders development,” Ms Wood said.

Download the full report: The 5 A’s of Retirement Living – towards proactive planning policy

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