With recent cuts in the aged care sector equating to as much as $1.6 billion, according to the Aged and Community Services Association, developers and providers are coming under increasing pressure to drive additional value out of their sites and create long-term strategic development plans.

The need for additional aged care is critical, but these needs are not universal across the sector. Aged care is a unique sector of the housing market with specific design and planning needs that must be considered from the outset in master planning or planning approval. Different sub-sectors are emerging and the expectations and desires of our emerging aged/retiring baby boomers are very different from the ‘existing elderly.’

What Is The Current Situation? 

• Australia’s population is ageing. The average life expectancy in Australia has grown consistently over the past 50 years and significant growth is anticipated in residents 65 and older over the next 20 years.

• There is a global push toward urbanised living, with many rural communities moving off farms and into towns.

• Younger people and families are moving towards cities where there is greater access to jobs and education.

• In metropolitan Australia, aged care is often pushed toward city fringes where large plots of affordable land are available.

• Ageing populations are more prevalent in regional communities, yet it is often more difficult to attract private investment for new aged care facilities.

Planners and developers must recognise that traditional aged care models miss the mark for many people.

At present, there is a disconnect between the types of housing being delivered to the market – the needs of people who will require the housing in future – and where the housing is currently being provided.

There is a lot of goodwill and effort directed toward changing the status quo, but not a lot of noticeable difference on the ground.

There is a shortfall in appropriate accommodation for the future. The displacement and social isolation of older residents in our communities is not a desirable outcome.

The development industry plays a critical role in meeting these challenges through the provision of the vast majority of Australia’s housing.

There is growing recognition that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing aged care. There are numerous different models of accommodation currently on the market and innovative new models being developed every day.

It must be recognised that the needs and desires of today will be different from those of tomorrow. It is crucial to look a step ahead in planning, designing, and delivering for these needs.  Innovation and flexibility therefore need to be supported to enable greater investment in aged care, with care taken toward the following steps:

  • Identifying parcels of land suitable for accommodation of different housing types (including different types of aged care).
  • Facilitating dialogue between Government, developers and aged care providers as to the critical success factors which enable aged care development to occur.
  • Raising awareness, sharing ideas, and up-skilling the development industry as to the opportunities and challenges in providing aged care premises.
  • Removing / reducing current barriers to the development of aged care premises, for example:
  • Introducing exemptions from planning requirements relating to the development of new aged care premises. This may include exemptions from height and permit requirements for higher density housing products.
  • Removing/tailoring infrastructure contributions to be commensurate with the use of the land for aged care; recognising that the use of land for this purpose places very different demands on road systems, infrastructure, and open space than other forms of development.
  • Considering opportunities for the use of surplus public/government land to provide for aged care. This would play an important role in opening up greater opportunities for aged care within the established urban environment.
  • Adjusting planning policy to encourage new forms of accommodation to meet changing needs.

In Practice: The Ozanam and Bailley House

The Ozanam and Bailley House is a state-wide crisis and permanent residential hub with aged care and support services. The Ozanam Community Centre provides a range of community services to those experiencing homelessness.

VincentCare has a historical presence in North Melbourne and an ongoing term commitment to meeting the needs for this community. As part of its long term strategic planning, VincentCare undertook a review of potential redevelopment options for the sites.

Meinhardt was engaged to provide statutory and strategic town planning advice to assist in determining the ‘highest and best’ use for each of the sites based on an assessment of the opportunities and constraints, town planning parameters and development objectives, and town planning ‘net benefit’ principles. Advice was also provided about strategies to facilitate town planning and development approval and minimise planning risk.

The work resulted in a Town Planning Framework Report which identified a strategic, high-level urban design and built form response which will inform future master planning of the sites.

By Tom Harrington,
Senior Associate – Planning at Meinhardt