Crackdown on ‘incremental creep of seniors’ housing’

Property developers slam NSW Government’s policy changes as a “pre-election scare campaign” against development.

The Urban Taskforce, which represents property developers and financiers, said the State Government had “declared war on new projects to house older citizens.”

The government last week announced it was introducing the policy changes in response to community concerns about “the incremental creep of seniors’ housing developments” in rural and semi-rural areas.

Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts said the changes to the Seniors Housing State Environmental Planning Policy would “keep the intrusive incremental creep of seniors’ housing developments in check.”

“Developers can no longer increase the size of their development simply by applying for a new Site Compatibility Certificate (SCC) to include additional land unless they meet existing and new criteria,” Mr Roberts said.

Developers would need to undertake and provide a new cumulative impact assessment as part of a SCC application if their proposed site was within a kilometre of two or more other seniors developments.

They will also need to undertake a study on the impact of new developments on existing and future infrastructure and services.

The minister said the changes would reinforce the importance of local amenities for residents of new seniors’ housing.

But the developers’ peak said the changes would severely restrict where older citizens can live.

“The policy seems to be about forcing older people to be isolated from the rest of the community,” said Chris Johnson, CEO of the Urban Taskforce.

“The argument is that the local character must be protected. So where are older Sydneysiders meant to go?”

The Property Council similarly said it was concerned that the change would be a further obstacle to building seniors housing.

“When planning and building diverse, liveable communities, seniors housing must be included,” the council’s NSW executive director Jane Fitzgerald told Government News.

“By restricting the ability to build seniors housing we are also restricting the housing options for the older members of our community.

“The number of people aged 65 and over across NSW is expected to increase by 800,000 to more than two million people over the next 20 years. It’s important that our policy settings ensure that we can build enough seniors housing to meet the demand from this growing demographic,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Language is inappropriate: seniors 

Seniors groups have also criticised the minister’s language.

The Council on the Ageing NSW said older people have a right to housing that is affordable, adaptable and stable, so that they can remain living independently in their own communities.

“A lot of seniors are interested in downsizing, maybe more innovative approaches to how they’re going to live, so language like [the minister’s] is absolutely inappropriate,” Joan Hughes, president of COTA NSW, told Government News. 

While policy makers often referred to the ageing population, Ms Hughes said “the actual housing crisis is with us now and it’s only going to get worse unless governments at the state level do something about it.”

“The current planning and regulatory systems in NSW often do hinder the development of what we’d call innovative housing solutions that can be affordable for older people,” she said.

In the lead-up to the state election COTA NSW would be calling for an increase in social housing for seniors as well as more “inclusionary zoning measures” in local government areas, Ms Hughes said.

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