Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Nov-Dec 2013 Contents The demand for appropriate affordable housing for older people is on the rise.
Design & built environment
Affordable housing for older
people is becoming the
great unmet need, which
will grow to a tsunami in the
future as ageing boomers
without adequate retirement savings
and an increasingly diminished home
ownership struggle to adequately house
themselves when retired.
Home ownership of the 65-plus age
group, as measured in 2009-10 by the
Australian Bureau of Statistics, indicates
78 per cent home ownership without a
mortgage, with the balance either still
paying off a mortgage or renting. The
position gets worse for younger cohorts --
50 per cent for the 55 to 64 age group, and
24 per cent for the 45 to 54 age group.
The demand for appropriate affordable
housing for older people is on the rise.
OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
A range of approaches have been used
to provide affordable housing for older
people, by reducing the cost of housing.
While accommodation options provided
to the retirement sector have been relatively
narrow over the last 30 years, alternative
models have begun to recently emerge, to
meet different segments of the market.
• Residential parks/mobile homes
In the affordable housing sector,
residential parks or mobile homes have
sought to meet the demand for lower cost
housing in a way that was still attractive
to the market. Prefabricated housing
methods are adopted, which in turn can
reduce the cost of construction.
A range of adjustments may be made
with financial arrangements. These
include rental models, or adjustments to
the traditional lease arrangement, where
ownership may be offered in the house,
but not the land.
Is it appropriate?
Mobile home residential parks are, by
definition, mobile and relocatable, and
as such, floor levels are substantially
raised above adjacent ground levels.
This presents difficulties in meeting
basic standards of accessibility for older
people. While current providers of this
type of accommodation often qualify
their offer to the market, stating that only
ambulant independent residents can be
accommodated, this seems to be a major
limitation in catering to the needs of the
older residential market.
• Alternative construction techniques
A range of prefabricated construction
techniques have been tried for relatively
traditional villa type units, and have
generally been measured in the market
by how closely they mimic traditional
construction techniques. Until they
develop their own acceptable aesthetic,
they will not realise their full potential.
The emergence of apartment living
models has presented a number of
challenges for developers. Apartment
developments are generally far more
difficult to stage than single level villa
developments, and construction costs are
To offset these increased costs, a range
of strategies may need to be adopted to
keep apartment living affordable for older
people. Retaining car parking at ground
level can considerably reduce costs,
although this is not always favoured by
local municipal councils.
Apartment developments for older
people in recent years have been located
in relatively wealthy areas, where high
land cost has more than justified the
increased construction cost through
increased density. However, as the
appropriateness of this form has been
increasingly appreciated and accepted
by the market, it is also being adopted
in middle and lower income markets.
Developing a staged master plan can not
only allow the supply of accommodation
to the market to be more closely aligned
with market demand, but can also allow
smaller scale construction techniques to
be adopted, leading to more economical
• Funding options
The benefits of diverse communities
for older people have been recognised
by many providers of housing for older
people, most notably the Humanitas group.
The ExtraCare Charitable Trust in the
United Kingdom has embraced this model,
not just as a desirable social outcome, but
as a means of providing affordable housing
with a mix of tenures with buying, renting
or a mix of both -- for example, 50/50.
For their latest village in Birmingham,
CEO Nick Abbey has advised that 192
units will be for sale and 48 will be for
rent, distributed around the village so that
there are no distinct rental or sales zones.
The ExtraCare Group provides at least
20 per cent of homes in their villages
for rent at levels within the reach of the
poorest. This is achieved through cross
subsidy from sales, but also through cross
subsidy from government and a benefits
system that supports the rent and service
charges payable. It is not hard to see a
similar system emerging in Australia. n
Ken Blair is the CEO of retirement and aged
care specialists Blair Architects.
Building for the future
Alternative financial structures and the adoption of mass
production and other more economical construction
methods are among the possible means of providing
affordable housing for seniors, writes Ken Blair.
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