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Victoria’s population is ageing and causing significant growth in demand for retirement housing. At the same time, residents have heightened expectations about the services that will be delivered.
This creates a range of challenges for government and industry, and also prompted significant public interest in this Inquiry. It’s important for the Victorian Government to ensure that legislation keeps pace with change, and in a way that protects consumers and provides the sector with the certainty it needs to grow.
A variety of issues and problems were raised in evidence or through submissions. Contracts are complicated and are not always well understood by all parties. Reliable legal access may be hard to access. There are significant cost of living pressures for those on fixed incomes. Relationships between residents and management are sometimes fractious and existing options to resolve disputes are poorly regarded by many residents.
The Committee was not tasked with solving every problem identified by those who contributed to the Inquiry. It was not charged with undertaking a wholesale review of the various pieces of legislation that are relevant to retirement housing in Victoria.
The Committee has identified several opportunities for improvement and has made recommendations accordingly.
The current supply of retirement housing is failing to keep pace with growth in demand, and without supply side changes, this gap will increase. The Committee recommends the Planning Minister examine ways to address this supply shortage, possibly through establishing Retirement Housing Zones.
While the Committee received evidence that most residents are happy in their retirement community, it’s clear that dispute resolution processes need to improve, as does training for those who work in and provide advice to the industry.
The Committee recommends the Law Institute of Victoria support better training for the legal profession, and also recommends that training for village managers be expanded. In addition, the Committee recommends the establishment of a low cost, accessible and binding dispute resolution process, either by expanding the jurisdiction of an existing Ombudsman, or through the creation of a new Ombudsman.
The Committee received many submissions about the issue of differential rates. The case for a rates discount for residents of retirement villages is appealing, as so many services are provided by the village and not the local council, but such a recommendation was not made. As the MAV told us, rates are not levied on a fee for service model, and in the current rate capping environment imposed by the State Government, any reduction in revenue from one source would merely cost shift to other ratepayers.
Victorians deserve to feel confident that should they choose to move into a retirement village or park, they will find a suitable home where they will feel safe and enjoy their retirement years, and where this does not occur, there are processes in place to address these concerns. The recommendations we have made are aimed at improvements to provide that confidence.