John Collyns: Retirement villages help ease housing shortage

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Of Aucklanders aged 75-plus, 12.8 per cent live in retirement villages. Photo / APN
Of Aucklanders aged 75-plus, 12.8 per cent live in retirement villages. Photo / APN

The Government's Housing Accord with Auckland Council will hopefully go some way to boosting the delivery of much-needed housing by paving the way for 39,000 new homes and sections over a three-year period.

However, it is going to be difficult to meet demand just through new housing stock and intensification, particularly when it comes to homes suitable for families.

This week, delegates at the Retirement Villages Association conference in Auckland have been hearing how retirement villages can form part of the solution to addressing the housing crisis.

Many older people rightly place a huge personal value on their homes. In some cases, they may even feel that there is an expectation that they should continue living in the family home so grandchildren can experience what their parents did.

However, the reality is for many their wealth is tied up in their house and so a growing number of New Zealanders are choosing to sell the home and release their equity.

A range of alternative housing options is available, including downsizing to a smaller house or apartment. .

Many are joining the 30,000 or so older New Zealanders who choose to live in one of the country's 24,000 retirement village units.

Let's consider a 75-year-old Auckland woman in a five-bedroom house. She's had enough of worrying about the lawns, the gardening, her leaking roof, and her latest insurance bill. She wants an easier life, so she puts her house on the market.

It fetches, say, $800,000. She pays $400,000 for a licence to occupy in a retirement village that's caught her eye and puts the rest in the bank.

At the retirement village, she is still living independently, but help is right at hand. She's surrounded by people her own age with similar interests.

On any given day she could be singing in a choir, playing bridge, golf or croquet, reading in the library, going to the cinema, learning to meditate or write poetry. Very likely she's still close to her community.

She knows she benefits from enhanced security and she will be missed quickly should anything happen to her. She doesn't need to worry about a thing.

The life in the village, the community facilities and amenities our Auckland resident enjoys now are paid for later by a 20-30 per cent deferred management fee when she terminates the occupation right agreement.

By making the choice to move to a retirement village, she's benefited from companionship, independence and a sense of community. However, her decision has had wider-reaching benefits, including freeing up a much needed good suburban family home for a young family.

Of Aucklanders aged 75-plus, 12.8 per cent live in retirement villages. Therefore, even allowing for renters, those in care or living with family, a large percentage of older Aucklanders continue to live in their own homes.

There are tens of thousands of homes out there that could be released on to the city's housing market and their owners liberated from the worries of home ownership.

Grappling with supply, demand and delivery is something the sector is working on constantly. We believe retirement villages will play an increasingly important role.

John Collyns is executive director of the Retirement Villages Association.

- NZ Herald

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