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Independent living seeks govt support

Clarence Village Gardens residents Peter and Miriam Sinfield tell Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Page MP Kevin Hogan (far left) how their new Grafton unit met their affordable housing needs. Image: Josh McMahon

Clarence Village believes it has an answer to help meet the area’s growing need for affordable housing, but it’s yet to strike gold in its political lobbying for government support.
Representatives of the not-for-profit aged care provider took our region’s political leaders on a tour of the newly-filled Clarence Village Gardens in Grafton on Wednesday last week, in an attempt to convince them the independent living model was the way forward, and in future should attract government funding.
Unlike nursing home styled aged care, independent community accommodation doesn’t attract government funding.
“There’s been no funding for that purpose for 26 years,” said Clarence Village chair Geoff Shepherd.
He argued that the Clarence in particular was facing an increasing problem with affordable housing, with an influx of workers from major infrastructure projects placing a strain on the market. In addition, the Clarence had a high proportion of aging residents seeking affordable housing solutions.
Mr Shepherd said Clarence Village had another independent living proposal in the pipeline, but would need government assistance to get off the ground.
Clarence Village CEO Phil Belletty said “we think we’ve got a really good model here” for addressing the affordable housing needs for aging yet independent residents. Clarence Village Gardens is a village-styled facility of 21 architecturally-designed two-bedroom and two-bedroom plus study units. Cost is $265,000 to $285,000, with two-thirds refunded after five years residency, plus around $100 a week covering maintenance and other site-related costs, other than phone and electricity. It’s located on the fringe of Grafton, at 299 Queen Street, and as a not-for-profit Clarence Village puts all funds back into facilities and services.
Residents Peter and Miriam Sinfield allowed the visiting politicians and media a tour of their unit on Wednesday, telling them they were pleased with their new home.
“We were able to buy in here by selling our home at Ulmarra. The affordability was good compared to other commercially available properties of this quality and size. If we weren’t able to move in here we wouldn’t have been able to move out of Ulmarra,” Mr Sinfield said.
“It’s well-designed, all of our neighbours are really nice, and we have our clubhouse where we get together – we had a pizza night the other night. We’re also active with U3A in Grafton, so the location is ideal.”
Page MP Kevin Hogan acknowledged the region’s shortage “on half-way options like Clarence Village Gardens” and agreed what was put forward was “a great idea”.
However, he said that the Federal Government’s focus was on funding nursing home styled aged care, and providing rent subsidies to improve housing affordability. He said the State had some options available, and he didn’t want duplication of roles.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said that he would seek further information on whether proposals like Clarence Village Gardens may be eligible to apply for grants under the state $1.1billion Social and Housing Affordability Fund. He added, however, that country bids required a minimum 500 dwellings, meaning that Clarence Village would be required to partner with other regional housing provider/s to create a proposal.
Mr Belletty said that following the meeting with Mr Gulaptis and Mr Hogan, he emailed North Coast Community Housing for more information, but added he wasn’t actively seeking a partnership.
Despite being unable to secure funding or lobbying support for independent living projects, Mr Belletty remained positive about in-principle political support from Mr Hogan and Mr Gulaptis. Mr Belletty said the organisation would continue to seek funding pathways.

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