The NSW Greens support the Retirement Villages Amendment Bill 2020 and welcome the reforms that would "seek to address the disgraceful rorts in the industry". Jenny acknowledged that we need to recognise the specific needs of our diverse multicultural communities, as well as the LGBTQI+ communities in our cities to make sure that as they age there are appropriate options for them to be able to have safe and secure affordable places to live. She also emphasised the need to look at investing in Aboriginal aged care and housing facilities that are appropriate and designed and run by Elders in those communities for other Elders in those communities.
"On behalf of The Greens I wish to address the Retirement Villages Amendment Bill 2020. My colleague in the Legislative Council Ms Abigail Boyd is our spokesperson for older people and she set out that The Greens support the bill. It contains important reforms which seek to address the disgraceful rorts in the industry that were exposed in 2017 in a joint investigation by the ABC and Fairfax Media. The bill implements some of the recommendations in the Greiner report. The bill makes amendments to the Retirement Villages Act 1999 which will: require operators to pay exit entitlements to former residents where there has been an unreasonable delay in the sale of their property; make the transition to aged care easier by allowing former residents to access a percentage of their exit entitlement to cover fees, prior to the final sale of their property, to cover accommodation costs; and cap the period of time former residents continue to pay charges for general services once they have left the villages.
Some of the other key reforms included in the bill will: allow a former occupant to apply to the Secretary of the Department of Customer Service for an exit entitlement order, and the secretary can issue an exit entitlement order when the property remains unsold after a prescribed period of six months in metropolitan areas and 12 months in regional areas; permit former occupants wishing to transition to aged-care accommodation to request the operator to pay part of their exit entitlement to the aged-care provider as a daily accommodation payment; and provide a 42-day cap for recurrent charges for general services, including gardening and office costs for registered interest holders following permanent vacation.
It is absolutely clear from media reports and their revelations to see the extreme price gouging, misleading marketing, extraordinary fees and charges and dishonest business practises of some of the largest for-profit retirement village operators in our community. This is clearly a billion-dollar industry and people are profiting from the housing of older people in our State. It is absolutely crucial that we look at the impacts on the 66,000 people in New South Wales aged over 65 years that are living in retirement across the State. It is absolutely essential for us to recognise that people have a right to have a safe, secure and affordable place in which to live that is not driven by profit motives of private interests and private companies but, instead, is driven by our obligations in this place and across the community to ensure that everybody has a safe and secure place to call home—everybody has a right to a home. We must show that we are doing all we can to protect the interests of older people being able to have access to a safe place in which to live.
I note that previous speakers have talked about the particular impacts on older women. Recently I spoke in this place about the massive challenges faced by the growing number of older women who are facing homelessness and the pressures of housing costs in this area, which is something we need to do more about. Retirement villages are a popular housing choice for older people who have left full-time work. They provide a unique opportunity for community and freedom, as well as a relatively affordable housing option. We particularly know that it is a challenge with private housing and rental markets being inaccessible and unaffordable to those who no longer have a full-time salary. I note the absolute need for us to address this crisis and challenge in the inner city communities where we have Aboriginal communities living close to areas around Redfern and Waterloo. We need look at the idea of investing in Aboriginal aged care and housing facilities that are appropriate and designed and run by Elders in those communities for other Elders in those communities.
I also acknowledge the need for particular housing and recognition of the specific needs of our diverse multicultural communities, as well as the LGBTQI+ communities in our cities to make sure that as they age and get older there are appropriate options for them to be able to have safe and secure affordable places to live. That is why in terms of retirement villages, they offer a suitable solution for many older people in our community. It was so devastating to see the impact the retirement village industry was having on exploiting residents, and the lack of regulation that was available so they could swindle thousands of dollars from the pensions and retirement savings from often these very vulnerable people.
In working closely with the Retirement Village Residents Association, the Seniors Rights Service and the Council on the Ageing NSW my colleague in the Legislative Council was able to bring a number of successful amendments to the bill last night that strengthen the protections for current and former residents and to ensure a smooth transition process. I commend my colleague Ms Abigail Boyd for bringing those amendments to the key stakeholders who worked with her to develop them. I give a specific shout-out to Alysha Hardy in her office who worked late into the night to ensure that those amendments were passed. The Greens support the reforms in this bill. We know that more needs to be done and that the bill is but one step towards having a retirement village sector that operates in the best interests of residents. We hope the focus on ensuring that older people in our community across this State will continue to be able to be looked after and that their ability to pay is not the only determinant when making sure that they have a safe, secure and affordable place to live."