Seniors downsizing needs planning support

The recent report by the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre on planning impediments to downsizing for older Australians raises important issues, says the Urban Taskforce.

“The National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre has over 200,000 members so issues they raise are important to consider in relation to housing of seniors,” says Urban Taskforce CEO, Chris Johnson. “The report by the Centre, ‘Seniors downsizing on their own terms’ finds that impediments from overly complex and inflexible planning systems and government policies are restricting the potential for older Australians to downsize to smaller housing units.”

“With advances in health care many seniors remain active for decades after retirement and they prefer to maintain an active lifestyle before moving to aged care facilities. An ideal option for these people is to downsize from a large suburban house to a nearby apartment close to amenities. There are many examples of apartment buildings that have attracted older people due to the nearness of public transport, community facilities and health services,’’ says Mr Johnson.

The National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre Report stated that ‘It is clear that there is a gulf between what many seniors want and what is available in the present marketplace. This dearth of appealing housing stock seems to stem, in some cases, from a lack of innovation and flexibility in terms of development, planning and design. State and local government could do more to promote senior-friendly housing products in planning and ageing strategies by encouraging more areas of higher density and age-friendly accommodation around transport hubs and town centres.’

Another report, released today by the Productivity Commission, ‘Housing Decisions of Older Australians’ supports this finding, stating that ‘15 % of older Australians expect to downsize to a more suitable dwelling or age-specific housing. State and local planning systems remain the most significant barrier to the supply of innovative and affordable housing options.’

The Urban Taskforce is keen to encourage a greater role by the private sector in providing accommodation for older Australians particularly in apartment buildings. We produced a publication on exactly this issue titled ‘Apartment Living for Seniors’ which raised key planning initiatives that could lead to a more supportive environment for downsizing.

It is important that governments at state and local levels encourage apartments around transport nodes in suburbs with older demographics. At a federal level there are pension and taxation issues that need to be addressed. At the state level disincentives to sell for downsizing like Sales Tax need to be addressed as well as reforms to the planning system. The Urban Taskforce is keen to work with all levels of government to maximise the role of the private sector in providing housing for seniors.

Australia’s population is ageing rapidly and strong policy reforms are needed at both state and local government level to address the housing needs of older Australians.

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