13 May 2019
When health problems meant that Maggie Westman (pictured above) needed to move away from her farm near Dubbo in NSW’s Central West in 2011, she felt that a nearby seniors rental village provided the perfect solution.
“Having a home that is so low maintenance and affordable was just what I was looking for,” Ms Westman said. “Plus, I get the added benefit of having a lovely network of friends as my neighbours.”
Ms Westman moved into Ingenia Gardens Dubbo, which is one of eight seniors rental villages that Ingenia has across NSW and one of 24 across Australia. Under the rental village model, seniors pay an ongoing weekly rent, with no stamp duty or exit fees.
“Being on the pension I needed to know how much money I had left each fortnight and by qualifying for government rental assistance I have more left to spend on myself,” Ms Westman said.
“My set weekly rent gives me peace of mind knowing that my living arrangements are secure and it’s my decision if I decide to leave.”
Renting pensioners in the spotlight
The Federal election campaign has again focussed national attention on the problems of finding affordable accommodation for pensioners.
A report by Anglicare released on 29 April found that just 3.2 per cent of available rental listings across Australia during March 2019 could be regarded as affordable for couples on the aged pension.
Meanwhile, a survey by Downsizing.com.au found about 80 per cent of seniors believe it is not possible to adequately live on the pension. When asked by how much the pension should increase, the most popular survey response was 20 per cent, closely followed by 50 per cent.
A report published by the campaign in September 2016 found that single female pensioners who are renting in the private market and have chronic health issues are, on average, the most financially disadvantaged pensioners.
The report found that this was because Commonwealth rental assistance, which sits alongside the pension, was largely inadequate.
“We believe that the Age Pension in Australia is not adequate to live a life of dignity without considerable sacrifice, especially for renters,” the report concludes.
Despite the above campaigning, neither major party promised changes to pensions or rental assistance as part of the election campaign.
The role of rental villages
Rental villages, however, provide a potentially affordable option for pensioners who don’t have the luxury of owning their own home.
Ingenia Gardens told Downsizing.com.au that the base national average weekly rental payment for homes in an Ingenia Gardens community was $286.40, if a resident is eligible for government rent assistance.
“The rental model at Ingenia Gardens offers seniors independence and flexibility, with the added benefit of a secure lease and the lifestyle, convenience and safety aspects of belonging to a retirement community,” a company spokeswoman said.
“Under this model, a single weekly fee covers rent, water and basic maintenance, enabling residents to focus on staying active and social well into their retirement.”
A Monday-Friday on-site village manager and free resident lifestyle service are also on offer, while residents can also choose to pay for meals.
Another seniors rental village operator is Eureka, which manages 39 villages containing 2,138 units across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
“Eureka offers affordable rental accommodation with no entry or exit fees where seniors can live independently in a community environment surrounded by people of similar age and interests,” a company spokesperson said.
“We have structured our rental charges to ensure that those who rely on the age pension can afford a quality place to rent and are still left with enough to enjoy themselves.”
Rental villages a regional offering
Rental villages are typically located in regional areas, where lower land prices allow this form of retirement living to be delivered.
However, it is still relatively rare to hear stories of pensioners who’ve left expensive rentals in the big cities to move into a regional rental village.
“We find that most of our clients are downsizing from their current property into a smaller more manageable place to live where they can remain independent but still be active,” a Eureka spokesperson said.
“The majority of our residents that move into our villages come from the same areas the villages are located and know of our villages through the community.”
By Mark Skelsey, News Editor at Downsizing.com.au. Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org