For decades, the concept of small group household living has been associated with struggling university students and young renters - as illustrated in the famed 1980s British television comedy ‘The Young Ones’.

Now a start-up company is trashing this long-held image by instead delivering group household living for seniors.

Calyptus founder Richard Andrews

Calyptus has been launched by Richard Andrews, a ten-year veteran of the retirement living industry who previously worked as a senior executive at not-for-profit retirement living and care provider Bolton Clarke.

To date, Calyptus has brought together tenants and investors at two Queensland locations, at Palmwoods on the Sunshine Coast and Marsden, south of Brisbane.

Flinders View near Ipswich, west of Brisbane, and yet another site in Beaudesert, are coming online shortly.

The fledgling company is setting up groups of three or four tenants who each contribute around $200 to $260 a week in rent.

Most tenants are pensioners and once in place, are introduced to best-in-class local care providers to access Government-funded services.

Mr Andrews says the rental properties include furnished living rooms and kitchens, along with wi-fi, and a monitored emergency call alarm system. Each tenant enjoys a private bedroom and bathroom.

Tenants will also benefit from the support and friendship of like-minded seniors, along with property owners who have bought into the concept of providing accommodation for seniors.

One of the big benefits of this model is that it helps address the issue of loneliness among single older people,” Mr Andrews said.

“I saw how retirement communities helped address this issue, but wanted to bring this into the rental market.”

On the flipside, Mr Andrews said an increasing number of property investors were recognising that over 50s were generally well-behaved tenants who delivered a steady and profitable rental return.

What’s more, he said the concept of group household living - also known as co-living - was responding to a rapidly growing demand for rental accommodation among seniors.

I spent most of the last ten years in the retirement village industry and during that time saw massive need for rentals for seniors, but no-one was talking or doing anything about it,” Mr Andrews said. “So I thought I would do something about this myself.”

From its initial modest start in south-east Queensland, Mr Andrews has bold ambitions to make Calyptus a nationwide player. Its business model relies on bringing the tenants and investors together, and then taking a portion of the revenue.

The initial signs are promising, with Mr Andrews having some 100 tenants on his waiting list and a similar pipeline of potential properties. One builder partner has estimated delivering around 200-300 properties a year to the concept.

Mr Richards intends that all homes to be used in his scheme will be standard suburban family homes, but with some important distinctions. 

He says he will focus on homes built to the Livable Housing Australia silver standard, meaning they will include features designed to create a safer living environment for older people.

Living room of the Calyptus home at Palmwoods on the NSW Sunshine Coast

He’s also keen for homes to deliver private bathrooms for each resident, which is often not found among typical family homes. 

Aileen and Judy talk about share living

Downsizing.com.au travelled to Palmwoods on the Sunshine Coast to speak to two residents - Aileen and Judy - who’ve moved into the Calyptus property.

Judy said the last time she had been in a shared living environment was in the 1970s, in her “hippy era”.

Residents Aileen and Judy who have moved into the Calyptus home on the Sunshine Coast

I was looking for a place, and my daughter spotted this and I thought ‘do I really want to share?,” Judy said. ”Then I thought it might be good, I might make a new friend, so then we moved in and I’ve been pretty happy since.

“I’m that group in my 60s trying to find a place and this is it and I like it.”  

Huge rise in seniors renters

According to an Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report published in August 2020, the number of Australians who are private renters and aged over 55 is expected to increase from 647,584 people in 2016 to 1.110m in 2031 - an increase of 72 per cent. 

Over the same period, there will only be a modest 13 per cent increase in over 55 homeowners.

This in turn is expected to lead to strong demand for affordable rental options, including the Calyptus group household model.

Comment from our CEO

Downsizing.com.au Amanda Graham said the website had seen a very big increase in demand for affordable senior rental accommodation in the past 5 years, with limited housing stock available, so consumer demand had far outstripped supply. 

“We set up the free Senior Flatmates listings to respond to the increasing demand for rentals, and it’s encouraging to see innovative new companies such as Calyptus coming forward to meet this challenge.”

“Australia has a huge challenge ahead in meeting the housing needs of the increasing numbers of people who will be entering retirement, or approaching retirement, as renters,” Ms Graham said. “This issue particularly affects older women who may be affected by divorce, or death of a partner, and with limited access to superannuation savings due to long periods out of the workforce.”

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Kitchen at the Calyptus Palmwoods property on the Sunshine Coast