The next State government needs to introduce retirement living housing targets for councils to plan for increased housing supply or WA will face a seniors housing crisis, the Property Council of Australia has warned.

The peak body claims that WA is struggling to house an ever-growing seniors population with official forecasts predicting that 22 per cent of the greater Perth population will be aged 65 or over by 2051.

“As the population of our city continues to grow and age, we need to face up to the stark reality that we are currently not equipped to deliver well located and well-designed retirement communities to house our seniors,” Property Council WA Executive Director Lino Iacomella said.

“What we are seeing is seniors being given a lack of choice of where they can retire and being forced to move into unfamiliar areas where they are not socially connected.”

“Land use policy is the single most important lever that government has to provide rapid support for the development or redevelopment of retirement villages so that older West Australians are able to live happy and independent lives where they want to live,” she said.

“Enshrining retirement living targets in state planning frameworks will encourage councils to identify where the development of modern vertical villages and the redevelopment of existing low density villages can occur in desirable locations such as the middle ring suburbs of Perth.”

“Increasing density in these areas would allow our seniors to live close to family and friends, while also offering new and modern communities which promote independence and caters for their needs,” she said.

Artists impression of the proposed Zone Q development in South Perth

Artists impression of the proposed Zone Q development in South Perth

The challenge is not only in land use. A number of applications to build high rise towers in Perth, including one by Zone Q that would include high-level aged care, have been knocked back by the local planning assessment panel with local action groups vocally opposed to high-rise towers.

Save the South Perth Peninsula action group spokesperson, Vicki Redden, told WA Today she does not believe high-rise towers are suitable for dementia patients and others needing constant care and that no “rational person” would consider aged care appropriate for a 33-storey building.

“People with Dementia and Alzheimers being housed on the 16th floor alongside the busiest intersection in South Perth?” she said.

“Older people living in apartments in certainly not a new thing – but including specific High Level Aged Care is something that needs a lot more thought and professional input than an architect changing some labels on the drawings just to get around a scheme requirement.”

“How do you get 124 very old, often disabled people down 16 floors when the first safety procedure is don’t use the lifts,” she said.

Other developers however said the proposed design, which combined a mix of residential, aged care, child care and commercial, was exactly what the city needs.

“What Zone Q put forward in terms of future urban living, combining child care and aged care in a building with a public amenity deck, was quite innovative in terms of where we are going as a community, quite extraordinary,” Paul Plowman, spokesman for developer group Better South Perth, said.

“The City of South Perth is applying different rules to different people. When they approved the similar design of Civic Heart that criteria wasn’t applied, but now the state architect somehow has a role to play in making commentary on design?”

“That’s of significant concern and is very unfair,” he said.