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Seeking solutions to the ageing population’s demands

Auckland – April 10, 2016

The country’s best planners get together in Dunedin this week to consider and debate the housing needs of older Kiwis.

Like many countries, New Zealand’s population is ageing. This means more people, and a higher proportion of the population, will be in their senior years.

The New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) is discussing at its annual conference in Dunedin this week future implications of a growing older population and housing.

Since 1980, the number of people aged 65 years and over has doubled. Baby boomers are now reaching retirement age and are likely to fuel further substantial growth in this age demographic over the next 20 years, NZPI chief executive Susan Houston says.

New Zealand has seen a huge boom in the development of retirement villages to cater for retirees, she says.

“But what are the options for the rapidly increasing number of older people who have been life-long renters or cannot afford the lifestyle that many new retirement developments offer?

“The elderly are some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable in society and often require a certain type and style of housing to accommodate typical age associated ailments. The current market conditions work against supplying affordable homes for these people.

“We see this in our cities where there is strong demand for one bedroom homes, yet land and other development costs, as well as planning rules make this outcome unachievable.

“We will be talking this week about how planning systems may support the market’s ability to provide affordable elderly housing in areas of highest demand. We will debate aspects of the recently introduced Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, through its recognition of the importance of affordable housing supply. Streamlining of the planning process could potentially influence the future supply of affordable elderly housing and provide the elderly with a range of housing options that are compatible with their lifestyle and income.“

Housing and caring for the growing elderly population is a significant resource management issue for New Zealand. The number of people in the 65 plus age group is projected to almost double from around 550,000 in 2009 to around one million in the late 2020s. Housing features to assist older people include smart assistive technology and modifications to help mobility, and range from video-entry phones and handrails to accessible driveways, ramps, and street-level entrances. Some of these are easier than others to retrofit to existing dwellings.

Houston says we need to actively plan for the ageing population now. Planning for this population requires a different approach. The Resource Management Act processes and traditional planning tools need to be cognizant of that requirement.

“The lifestyles and care needs of retired people are much different to younger people. The operational and functional requirements of retirement villages to properly cater for this type of resident are quite different to typical housing developments. Demand for housing is driven by the growth in the number of households. Future household growth is likely to continue outstripping population growth. We will be discussing solutions with our planners,” Houston says.

More than 500 planners, resource managers, urban designers and environmental practitioners from all over the country will discuss major planning issues affecting New Zealand at the Dunedin conference this week. Speakers at the April 12 to 15 event include Building, Housing and Environment minister Nick Smith, former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright.

For further information contact Susan Houston, NZPI chief executive, on 021 555754 or Make Lemonade media specialist Kip Brook on 0275 030188

Photo: NZPI chief executive Susan Houston

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