Retirement Living Year in Review 2020

Published on


Land lease operator GemLife acquires a site at Pimpama on the Gold Coast for its eighth 450-home community – GemLife also gets the nod for its $34 million planned 147-home community at Lennox Head.

New Zealand Superannuation Fund agrees to sell its 19.9% stake in New Zealand’s second largest village operator Metlifecare after the board recommends a $1.5 billion takeover bid by Swedish private equity firm EQT – the deal quickly goes sour however in April when EQT pulls out, citing the impact of COVID.

Sydney’s largest village operator Anglicare received approval for a six-storey building (pictured right) with a mix of 36 affordable and strata studio units and one- and two-bedroom units in Fairfield, 23km west of the CBD.

Stage 1 of the $30 million 480-unit family-run RV Oceanside land lease community in Bundaberg starts construction.

Sydney-based Not For Profit Vasey Communities gets the go-ahead for its $90 million 12-storey Kokoda Residences retirement village at Waitara on Sydney’s North Shore following a two-year battle with two residents to develop the existing 55-year-old village on the site.


Veteran village operator Paul Browne’s (pictured right) LDK Healthcare welcomes the first residents to its first purpose-built $270 million Greenway Views retirement living and aged care development in Canberra after selling out the first stage under its ‘One Move Promise’.

Housing confidence hits a six-year high, according to NAB – COVID would see it plummet to record lows.

NZ’s Metlifecare appears set for an Australian expansion after EQT opens a Sydney office – if they did make the jump across the ditch, Melifecare would be the third NZ operator to launch Australian office following Ryman Healthcare and Summerset.

Glen Brown’s Reside Communities gets the nod for a $100 million 200-unit vertical retirement village at the Pacific Golf Club in Carindale, Brisbane with 97% of community submissions in favour of the development – unheard of in the history of retirement village and sporting club partnerships.

Land lease operator Lifestyle Communities acquires a site at Pakenham in Victoria for its 20th community.


Australia’s largest village operator, Lendlease Retirement reveals its sales are back up to pre-Four Corners levels, with a 14% increase in resales – again, the pandemic would see numbers slide.

Lifestyle Communities’ half yearly profit falls 36.5% to $15 million on planning delays – but the operator says it is still on track to meet its full year targets.

Lendlease launches the first new retirement village under its Ardency luxury brand on the former site of the Nine Network studios in Richmond, Melbourne – another co-located with aged care delivered by its partner Catholic Healthcare.

SA’s Not For Profit Uniting Communities officially opens its flagship 20-storey ‘U City’ (pictured left) development in the Adelaide CBD, housing an Australian-first mix of retirement living, specialist short- and long-term disability accommodation, conference and function spaces, offices, social services, and hospitality and retail outlets.

Southern Cross Care (NSW & ACT) gets the tick of approval to expand its co-located village at Merrylands West in Western Sydney to 460 units, doubling its size.

As the states introduce restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID, law firm MinterEllison warns the QLD Government that retirement villages can’t protect residents unless urgent laws are passed to increase their powers because villages do not have powers to block visitors or restrict resident gatherings.


NZ’s second-largest village operator Summerset cuts its building forecast by 25% as COVID restrictions see developments stalled.

Figures reveal retirement village customer searches on are down 50% in March to a 5-year low as the pandemic hits, but start to recover in early April.

SA family-run operator Gannon Lifestyle Communities lodges plans for its second land lease community – a $12.3 million 80-home community in northern Adelaide.

Swedish private equity firm EQT pulls out of its $1.46 billion takeover of NZ village operator Metlifecare blaming COVID-19 – a decision Metlifecare would choose to fight.

Lendlease China appoints former IKEA China Managing Director, Hui Ling (pictured right), to oversee its retirement village developments in the country.

ACT-based aged care and village operator Goodwin announces an Australian-first village and affordable housing initiative with the purchase of land at Downer in Canberra for the site.


NZ village operator Metlifecare (Chair Kim Ellis pictured below) refuses to accept the cancellation of EQT’s $1.5 billion takeover deal, bringing in the lawyers and taking their case to the High Court.

Tasmanian residential developer Greenplace switches their long-held site in Swansea from residential to a 67-unit retirement village development after it is deemed “too good” for residential.

Master Builders Australia forecasts a 43,000 drip in new home builds due to COVID, increasing demand for existing homes.

Traffic on is up 37% on the same time in May 2019 despite the pandemic – but operators are warned they must capitalise on new demand now.

Not For Profit Helping Hand’s $4 million redevelopment of its North Adelaide retirement village is knocked back by City Council.

Stockland’s sales take a 66% dive because of COVID-19 with $4.5 million lost in a month.

The Victorian energy regulator steps in to ensure residents in retirement villages where the electricity networks are embedded are charged a capped price.

Housing prices are forecast to fall 13% in 2020 on the back of COVID, but we point out the real challenge for village operators is overcoming the emotions of customers selling the family home.

The partnership between former Lendlease Retirement CEO Michael Eggington and residential developer Thirdi gets the green light for a $120 million retirement village at the Merewether Golf Club – Thirdi reveals they now have a target of six sites in planning or development by end of 2021.

Lifestyle Communities announces its 21st community at Clyde North in outer Melbourne – the land lease operator now has 4,288 home sites under management, construction or development.

Ballarat-based operator Country Club Living lodges plans for its second QLD 185-unit retirement village in Toowoomba – adding to its $500 million development pipeline.

An Orange man is accused of multiple crimes at a number of Sydney retirement villages – including attempted murder.

Google simplifies its Google Home product into the new ‘Nest Hub Max’ to trial in US retirement villages and aged care homes.

Tim Russell and Mark Taylor’s retirement vehicle Aura Holdings turns the sod on its fifth QLD retirement village ‘The Ninth Middle Ridge’ at Toowoomba Golf Club.


Village operators report a new ‘COVID Customer’ – the adult children of ageing parents looking for a safe haven for ageing parents – with over 70 enquiries out of 100 on coming from children, an increase from 20% before COVID.

Stockland launches ‘Deliver on Demand’ – a local shopping app ideal for retirement village residents – and people wishing to stay in the family home.

James Kelly (pictured right), the Chair of the Residential Land Lease Alliance and founder of Lifestyle Communities, says the Government’s new $25,000 Homebuilder Grant would be a boost for land lease communities – but the sector turns out to be ineligible for the funding.

Traffic on increases 48% on the previous month as interest in retirement living ‘post-COVID’ continues to grow, driving interest back to pre-Four Corners levels.

Exploratory stage research by Australian Online Research (AOR) for DCM Group’s 2020 National Resident Survey shows the number of potential village residents who say they are lonely has grown from 2% in 2018 to 25% this year, highlighting the changing village customer.

A former Newcastle sports club seems set to become a co-located retirement village and Arcare aged care home under plans to revive the site.

Mark Steinert resigns as CEO of Stockland after seven years.

Not For Profit Mercy Health announces it will build an $8 million retirement village with up to 176 units alongside its aged care home in Bendigo.

Reports emerge of at least five QLD village operators looking to call in the liquidators because they don’t have the cash to fund the QLD Government’s new 18-month buybacks.

Meanwhile, the NSW Government announces its recommended buyback regulations of adjusted 6- and 12-month buyback agreements for metro and regional areas respectively, a 42-day fee waiver on recurrent charges and a new aged care rule after consultation with the Retirement Living Council (RLC) and NSW Resident Association.


Private equity firm EQT makes a fresh bid for Metlifecare – offering $1 less per share after than its earlier offer in January after the cancelled takeover saw stocks slide.

Village managers turned operators Jamie Sterland and Braden Johnson launch Teman as a new national village operator with the purchase of the five Settlers villages from their receivers, increasing their portfolio to 600 homes.

Uniting Communities’ ‘U City’ development wins a SA architectural award.

CBRE forecasts a net 5% drop in NZ retirement village valuations – a warning for Australian village operators that the value of their village assets may also fall.

Land lease operator Ingenia reveals plans to build a community in ‘green’ Byron Bay on the site where a proposal for a retirement village was knocked back four years earlier.

Not For Profit GenU lodges plans to demolish part of its 137-unit Geelong retirement village in a $15 million revamp.

Lendlease Retirement CEO Tony Randello (pictured right) is won over by Brookfield to head up Australia’s second-largest village operator Aveo starting in January.


Commercial real estate company Colliers International launches a Land Lease Community Rating System to rank communities.

Aura Holdings secures a record $14 million sales for the second stage of its North Kirra vertical retirement village.

Ingenia splashes $23 million on two regional lifestyle communities on the NSW Central Coast and Victoria’s Central Highlands.

COVID delays the $60 million redevelopment of the luxury retirement village at Brisbane’s historic Lota House by The Village Retirement Group (VRG) and Anglicare.

The Ku-ring-gai Council area in north Sydney is revealed to have 27 ‘seniors living’ developments in the works.

New Zealand’s largest village and aged care operator Ryman Healthcare warns its plans for five retirement villages in Melbourne by the end of the year may be “slightly delayed” by COVID.

NZ’s second-largest village operator Summerset sees its profits plunge 99% to $1 million (pictured right) on back of the pandemic and lower village valuations – but says earthworks on its first Victorian village will start by the end of 2021.

Lifestyle Communities misses its target for new home settlements for the first time in its 17-year history thanks to COVID – but reveals it has almost 2,000 homes in the pipeline.

Ingenia pays Newcastle developer Winarch Capital $30 million to establish NSW’s largest (427-home) land lease community at its new residential estate in Morisset.

Rental village operator Eureka Group Holdings announces a $3.3 million expansion of its Wynnum rental village, 20km from Brisbane.

The NSW arm of Churches of Christ, Fresh Hope Care lodges a proposal to turn its Pendle Hill retirement village in Western Sydney into a 900-home “flagship” village.


Vindication for Paul Browne’s LDK Healthcare and its ‘One Move Promise’ model as it breaks its sales record with 26 deposits taken in August for its Canberra retirement village.

DCM Group’s preliminary research by AOR indicates the number of people who would seriously consider a retirement village has climbed 33% between 2018 and 2020, from 9% to 12%.

Lendlease declares it will sell another 50% of its retirement living business – three years after selling off 25% stake – to focus on other developments including build-to-rent.

Stockland Retirement Living is hit by a $116 million fair value decline in its full year results – but sees a 3.6% rise in settlements driven by demand for retirement villages. The operator says it also has 420 land lease homes on the way and is still exploring capital partnerships – 18 months after it first flagged the idea.

Uniting’s plans for a $93 million, 16-storey vertical retirement village at Epping in Sydney’s north receive some community backlash over their design.

Australian Unity reports a 30% increase in resales to $100 million across its 21 villages.

Catholic Healthcare opens the first stage of its Wahroonga retirement village on Sydney’s Upper North Shore.

Recent land lease entrant ASX-listed Chinese developer Boyuan exits the sector after just three years after acquiring NSW lifestyle community group Broadland Gardens for a reported $63 million, selling out to fund manager Lincoln Place for $64 million.

The sale makes Lincoln Place – established just under three years ago by two ex-Mirvac executives, Ben Hindmarsh and Nicholas Collishaw – Australia’s 10th largest land lease operator.

A review of NZ retirement village penetration shows that retirement villages are powering ahead in COVID market with enquiry up 30%.

The Royal Commission’s funding and financing hearings indicate that the Commissioners favour a new type of aged care accommodation which could represent an opportunity for retirement village operators.

Swedish private equity firm EQT wins in its takeover of Metlifecare, saving $210 million on its previous offer in January.

Shane Moran powers ahead with the luxury retirement village brand ‘Sage by Moran’ partnership with property fund giant Soul Pattinson, announcing they will develop a boutique retirement village in Cronulla in south Sydney.

Vasey Communities achieves 60% presales for its Kokoda Residences development approved back in January.

The Retirement Living Council (RLC) and the land lease peak body, the Residential Land Lease Alliance lobby the Federal Government for a $25,000 ‘downsizers’ grant ahead of the Budget to make up for seniors’ housing missing out on COVID stimulus measures.


DCM Research identifies that just 3% of people aged 65 to 74 are genuinely retirement village customers, even with COVID.

QLD Housing Minister Mick de Brenni  (pictured right) wades into complaints about “unfair” rent increases at land lease communities, saying he will push to overhaul the legislation – which he does later that month.

Ingenia’s 2020 Annual Report shows that the land lease communities generate far more cash flow than traditional village operators, showing why some operators are moving into the sector.

The NSW Ageing and Disability Commission reports that it received a 64% rise in calls in 2019/20 – with a bigger increase after COVID restrictions lifted.

A derelict pub in Ringwood East in Melbourne is set to be demolished to make way for Ryman Healthcare’s latest $220 million development.

Listed rental village operator Eureka delivers a $9.1 million full year profit.

QLD Housing Minister Mick de Brenni fulfils his promise, passing new land lease community regulations to protect residents from rent increases during COVID.

Granny flats emerge as the big winner in the Federal Budget’s senior housing measures with their capital gains tax scrapped, despite the $25,000 ‘downsizers’ grant being pushed by the Retirement Living Council (RLC) and the Residential Land Lease Alliance.

NZ’s Ryman Healthcare flags future expansion in Australia into other states, with 800 homes to be put on the ground every year.

Aware (formerly First State) Super’s investment in Oak Tree tops $150 million with 18 villages underway or waiting for approval as the operator says its enquiry rates are up substantially on same time last year.

The latest ANZ/Property Council Survey for the December quarter shows confidence in the retirement living sector’s ability to grow has fallen off a cliff thanks to COVID.

The Retirement Living Council (RLC) sends out a survey to look at a spike in retirement village insurance premiums after some operators report 50% to 120% increases.

The Aged Care Royal Commission holds its final formal hearings with the Counsel Assisting recommending ‘small home’ models become the norm for aged care developments by 2025 – a potential opportunity for retirement village and land lease operators to offer a new model of care.

Stockland sees its net residential sales decline 9% in the first quarter of FY21 due to the Victorian lockdown but its figures for other states indicate an uplift in sales – the operator also announces the first of its 2,400 land lease homes has begun construction.

The NZ High Court finally gives EQT’s $1.3 billion takeover of Metlifecare the green light – a year after its first takeover bid.


Ryman Healthcare is rated New Zealand’s top retirement village operator for the third year running with a 92% positive rating.

Lifestyle Communities celebrates the 15th birthday of its first community, revealing it is now growing at a rate of two new sites a year.

Land lease operator Halcyon scores a rare double win at QLD UDIA Awards for its $325 million Halcyon Greens community at Pimpama on the Gold Coast.

Stockland kicks off construction on its first $126 million land lease community on the Sunshine Coast, with 3,000 land lease homes now in the pipeline.

A ‘new’ interim code of practice for WA retirement villages launches, but will only be in place for six months amid ongoing reforms.

A $1.1 billion Whitsunday mixed use development – including a retirement village – gets the green light.

DCM Institute hosts the sector’s first post-COVID gathering (pictured below) for its Adelaide Industry Update.

Ingenia reveals its portfolio grew by 24% over the last 12 months as CEO Simon Owen unveils a new product priced under $200,000.

The NSW Government’s new buyback rules for retirement villages pass Parliament.

The media reports that Lendlease faces allegations of double counting its tax deductions on its retirement village acquisitions by its former tax adviser.

Lifestyle Communities increases its revenue by 25% despite the hit from COVID.

The Federal Government’s Retirement Income Review calls for older Australians to use the equity in the family home to fund their retirement – suggesting that retirement villages and land lease communities could benefit.

Tony Randello starts his new role as Aveo CEO, with another former Lendlease executive Natalie Patterson appointed Aveo’s new Chief Operating Officer.

Lendlease says it is moving ahead on the sell down of its retirement living business, plus sales to start on its first Chinese retirement village. Long-time Lendlease executive Nathan Cockerill is also revealed as its new MD, replacing Tony Randello.

Meanwhile, Lendlease CFO Tarun Gupta  (pictured right) is revealed as the new Stockland CEO.


WA’s Consumer Protection Unit flags tough new buyback regulations for retirement village operators, with the legislation being rushed to the Cabinet before Christmas.

The Property Council/PwC census reveals the average selling time for village units is now at 261 days – with just seven new villages being built in 2022.

Retirement villages top Australia for customer satisfaction in DCM Group’s National Resident Survey, with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 40, up 60% on the 2018 survey.

Media reports suggest Halcyon is looking to raise capital to fund developments outside of QLD.

New Zealand’s retirement village sector faces the prospect of tougher buyback regulations with over 450 villages potentially affected.