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Retirement villages seek planning changes

A major operator is calling for special zoning for retirement living facilities in line with the planning concessions granted to aged care.

Stockland has said that all state governments should prioritise retirement living developments through their planning controls in order to ensure a pipeline of new homes.

The operator’s calls came after a parliamentary committee inquiry in Victoria last week recommended new planning provisions to stimulate supply of retirement housing stock, such as establishing “retirement housing zones.”

Stephen Bull

Stephen Bull, CEO of retirement living at Stockland, said that unlike aged care, there is no specific zoning category for retirement living villages, yet they have special requirements such as accessible design.

“There are some zoning considerations for retirement living in some local government areas, however, general planning regimes in Victoria and throughout all other states are vastly insufficient,” Mr Bull said.

Retirment living providers say they are facing a scarcity of land and the challenge of acquiring sites in the appropriate locations.

“Developers are priced out of the market for potential new sites, particularly in suburbs within 20 to 30 kilometres of the city centre, because they are competing with large-scale apartment and villa developers who focus on maximising the space for dwellings only,” said Mr Bull.

As a result, older people were facing “a critical shortage” of retirement living facilities in major centres such as Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, he said.

Seniors welcome proposed changes

Consumer groups also threw their support behind the committee’s report, welcoming the recommendations to increase transparency around contracts and improve dispute resolution processes and staff training.

Council on the Ageing Victoria CEO Rhonda Held said consumers were pleased with the recommendations to address complexity of contracts, greater disclosure of costs including deferred management fees and exit fees and measures to clarify timelines and responsibilities for repairs and maintenance.

Ms Held said residents living in retirement villages and residential parks wanted greater accountability and increased skill levels among employees and owners.

“People working within this sector need to have finance skills, an understanding of the legislation, dispute resolutions and respectful communication,” Ms Held said.

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