Developer Q&A: Alison Quinn, Aveo Group



Alison Quinn

Alison Quinn is the Executive General Manager for retirement company Aveo Group, who specialise in retirement village construction and management.

Aveo is one of Australia's leading provider of retirement lifestyle companies with more than 20 years in the business.

The company's portfolio has grown to 75 villages across Australia.


What is your outlook on the retirement sector?

One in five people will be over 65 in 2040 – it's phenomenal. It’s scary but to put it into context, at the moment the current penetration rate we have when we talk about retirement living is 5.3 per cent. That’s how many people over the age of 65 currently live in a retirement village.

If the industry or the sector as a whole wanted to maintain just that, by 2040 they have to build 266,000 new dwellings. The sector as a whole only introduced just over 1,000 last year. It’s an opportune time – there is huge demand and limited supply.

If the sector is delivering just over 1,000 and need to deliver over 266,000 by 2040, what is going to happen to get there?

To be completely frank I’m not too sure. I think it’s the biggest housing crisis Australia has faced.

It makes affordability pale in significance as well as sustainability.  This is inevitable and housing older people is vastly different proposition to building residential product that you can sell to an investor.

I’ve been with Aveo for 607 days, I count the days, and I have learnt more in those days then I have in the previous six or seven years that I have learnt in property.

The product isn’t just bricks and mortar, it’s about how you wrap around the ability to age in there. It’s an integrated care offering.

What’s the challenge in meeting the supply?

Land. I can’t compete dollar for dollar and site for site with a developer. We have other costs that come in with the projects that we can't differentiate in the initial sale price.

What can governments do to assist in the supply?

I think the first thing to do, take Brisbane City Council for instance, retirement living is not deemed to be a residential use. If we have a site that’s approved for residential, forget about height.

There’s also recognition of the need in a planning sense, there is a lot of strategic sense in the housing of older Australians but there is very little policy that you can direct yourself to. We can’t compete for suitable land with residential developers.


What are you looking for in seniors living sites?

The majority of older Australians currently live in closer proximity to our urban centres. In urban centres, we are talking about medium or high-density living. Theres always going to be brown field or green field developments but what we desire in a site is how it leads to services.

Most older Australians don’t want to move more than 10 kilometres from where they’ve lived for the majority if their life.  Retirement villages need to be located in those areas where we have that heavy population of over 65.

Proximity to health services, transportation, and proximity to a community; retirement living is about independence.


How is the apartment versus the detached home debate changing?

There’s no reason why residential towers above a Woolworths, like the Gasworks precinct in Newstead, Brisbane, wouldn’t make a terrific retirement village. Why wouldn’t you love to be here?The hurdles people don’t realise are planning and that we cannot pre-sell. We can’t take a pre-sell value to a bank because it’s not enforceable.


What are the counter arguments from state and federal authorities on standardising legislation nationwide?

I think you have to remember that the retirement villages act is largely driven out of consumer protection. So it’s not necessarily driven out of a transactional basis. You’ve also got thirty years of history. It’s a big step for any government to start with a clean sheet of paper and start again.

The resident bodies and operators of retirement housing in Queensland do reach consensus on a lot of things. But I do think it’s by virtue and the legacy of the age of the legislation that we are dealing with. You need to be able to protect the consumer but allow innovation.


What are industry bodies doing to lobby?

Well, the Property Council (of Australia) has recently taken over the Retirement Villages Association. That’s an excellent step forward.


Do you expect consolidation through the industry?

Well I think if you look at our portfolio, it’s been through aggregation rather than organic growth. But between the three large listed players that is a large chunk of the marketplace and if there is some thought leadership then you can enable change to happen.


Do you have a view on what’s best for retirement homes?

There's no such thing as best, but diversity is good so that we have choice for our consumers. That’s got to be a good thing.


What's the most important part in care?

Our philosophy and approach is based on an integrated care model. We do this for two reasons – we believe that’s what the market wants and we believe it will improve our return on assets.


How are demographic shifts in behaviour affecting how you are creating communities?

I think they are going to force innovation and we cannot have the expectation that what we have done ten years ago is going to be suitable in ten years time. We need to enable flexibility, the reality is the recognition in retirement villages.


You’re one of the most senior women in property in Australia, how have you found it as a woman in the industry?

I love this industry and it’s the only one I’ve ever been in. I just think it has got creativity, the fact you can always continue to learn and there is something special about being a place maker and that’s what we do. Being a female when I was younger I found it to be an advantage, it’s a lot easier to stand out in a sea full of suits.


What book are you reading at the moment?

This is embarrassing but I just finished The Hunger Games.


What is your favourite restaurant?

I’d have to say

Gerard’s Bistro in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.


Where is your favourite place to travel?

We have a beach house on South Stradbroke Island and we love it. Anywhere in Europe if we head overseas.

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