Collaboration builds age friendly communities

Article image - Collaboration builds age friendly communities Bob and Isabel Lutz looking through units at the Darkan open day last year; photo by Caroline Telfer.

Six local governments in the Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions of Western Australia have co-operated to deliver an aged housing project spanning six shires and eight town sites.

The group was formed almost 15 years ago, however it was in 2009 that its members embarked on a path to become leaders in collaboration and develop a unique model of aged housing delivery.

The local governments involved include the Shires of Williams, West Arthur, Wagin, Woodanilling, Dumbleyung and Lake Grace (4 x W’s, D & L = 4WDL). The Shire of Kent was also part of the project for the delivery of one year of the project in 2013/14.

The group has worked together on this project which has seen the identification of seniors focused housing, complimenting current and future aged care and health service needs, whilst also addressing unique needs of individual communities.

True regional collaboration such as this is hard to come by. The group identified a need for aged housing across the region through an Age Friendly Communities report that was prepared in 2009 and identified the short term accommodation needs across the region that was required to meet a growing demand from the older demographic.

The need to retain these valuable members of the community was recognised on one hand, as well as the increasing desire of the same demographic to stay in their community of choice for as long as possible, known as ‘ageing in place’.

Shire of Williams’ Economic Development Officer, Heidi Cowcher, has managed the project since inception.

“This project’s unique collaboration and delivery model has been used as an exemplar for the region, with the project business case and model shared across the Wheatbelt and further afield across WA as other local governments have also seen the need to deliver on aged housing needs where market failure occurs,” said Ms Cowcher.

“Local government is best placed to meet a growing demand, as it can build accommodation and then lease back to prospective tenants, thereby retaining ownership and management of the asset post construction.

“The project has been fortunate to receive funding from the WA State Government’s Royalties for Regions funding which totals over $15million over the last 7 years.

“This has seen the construction of 31 dedicated independent living units across the region to date, with 14 currently under construction due for completion in 2017.”