Critical retirement shortage

There's a critical shortage of retirement accommodation in South Africa — even in the country's exclusive retirement estates.

According to Mike Bester, CEO of Realty 1 International Property Group, that is specifically the case where units start in the R1-million-plus range.

At the same time, there is also a serious shortage of affordable homes for those on small civil pensions, whose affordability levels range from R200 000 and for those who can pay from R400 000 to R800 000.

Thousands on lists

The multitude of new sectional title developments that have been built in the last few years is helping accommodate mature buyers, Bester says, but these complexes are not always geared up for retirees, especially if they become frail or sickly.

“Retirement homes or villages are specifically intended for the elderly and accordingly offer a variety of services to meet a range of needs and interests,” he says, adding that the lack of these facilities is indicated by lengthy waiting lists in all price ranges.

According to Margie van Zyl, president of SAAHA (South African Association of Homes for the Aged), retirement complexes in Pietermaritzburg and in Kloof in KwaZulu-Natal, for example, have waiting lists of several hundred people. The same is true for many others throughout the country.

Van Zyl is optimistic, though, that developers are finally focusing on providing for the needs of this niche market, although she emphasises that provision of additional retirement housing needs to take place across the spectrum.

Cream off the cake

“My challenge is for the developers who are taking the cream off the cake to provide for the lower end of the market and thereby put something back into the community,” she says. She adds that many “non-profits” are selling retirement accommodation on a life rights basis in order to generate funding to pay for accommodation options for the “poorest of the poor”.

Entry level and middle market buyers are finding it particularly difficult to get into retirement homes, Bester says, and as a result, many are being forced to invest the entire proceeds of the sales of their properties into accommodation which is often beyond their financial means.

“The danger is that they often end up depleting their retirement capital during their life spans, putting themselves in the unenviable position of having to move again when this should, by rights, be their last move. As older people become increasingly vulnerable, the trauma of moving is exacerbated.”

Care facility needed

He adds: “People living on fixed monthly incomes should not have to undertake debt that will annihilate their retirement capital or savings. There has to therefore be provision made for affordable retirement accommodation, be it in the form of resident-funded retirement homes or villages, share block, life rights or rented accommodation.”

Also critical to retirees is that this accommodation offer both security and a level of independence in keeping with their state of health. “Most people moving into retirement communities want a care facility to be available “in case” they should need it one day.”

Developments purporting to be affordable should offer controlled levies so that residents can live out their days without overt financial pressure.

Government's role

The Department of Housing is in the process of identifying state-owned land as suitable for large-scale housing developments, which Bester says, offers government the ideal opportunity to take the needs of the elderly as well the needs of first-time buyers into their plans to supply affordable accommodation.

According to Van Zyl, South Africa, has — in accordance with the UN — developed the South African Plan of Action on Ageing.

“One of the key areas is the provision of housing for older people in order to ensure an enabling and supportive environment for them,” she says. “The Department of Housing needs to seriously address the needs of older people to meet our country’s obligations.”

Supportive of increased liaison and participation between the state, the private sector and civil society (the not-for-profit sector), Bester says developers need to keep abreast of the properties being put out to tender.

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