Another Saturday and another big story in the Business section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald by Adele Ferguson featuring the “latest retirement village operator to face disturbing revelations of misconduct”.
It is a confusing story and the full facts aren’t apparent.
Ferguson outlines that “more than 30 families” have had their strata village homes in the Berkeley Living apartment development in Pattersons Lake sold and they have not received any of the funds. Some have been waiting for up to 10 years for figures ranging from $110,000 to $270,000.
This would be both unbelievable and reprehensible if correct. But between the lines these 30 are also referred to as “investors” in the strata village and in that 10-year journey the business has been through liquidation by Westpac.
Berkeley Living is also not positioning itself as a retirement village offering “independent living”, but rather a serviced apartment offering.
Ferguson however labels it firmly as a retirement village and an example of where greater regulation is required.
She uses the alleged cloudy involvement by Stephen Snowden as the village operator and shamefully labelling him as a “convicted criminal” that the residents have had to “fend for themselves” with.
She then brings associated underworld figures and cocaine dealers into the picture.
What does this all mean?
It would appear that for Ferguson and the ABC, backed by the Consumer Action Law Centre of Victoria (CALC), the facts and clarity of relevance to retirement villages are secondary to creating pressure on government to deliver significant change to the business model of retirement villages eg the DMF, contracts, regulations etc.
There is talk they would like a Royal Commission.
Is the retirement village sector in such a bad state and is it “ripping off” residents and families?
If this was the case, the criticism would be a roar from the 180,000 residents and their families. The sector however is not being heard. And while that is the case and CALC can feed Ferguson and the ABC another “colourful story” every few weeks that can get by without all the facts, the pressure will continue. How should the sector respond?