Downsizing seniors go downtown
It’s a trend in the UK, now locals may follow suit and move away from suburban homes
BABY boomers, it seems, are happy to sell their big mansions in quiet suburban streets to move to vibrant downtowns for their old age.
This is creating a new market for developers in the UK and possibly South African developers too.
According to an article in The Guardian (“The new hipsters? London’s exclusive ‘downsizer’ homes for the over-55s”, May 31, 2017), London-based housing association Hanover has recognised the potential of this downsizer market with Quadra, a development of one- and two-bedroomed apartments in trendy Hackney for residents 55 and over.
Aimed at those who no longer need a large suburban family home but have both the capital and desire to relocate to a vibrant downtown area, it’s billed as an “aspiration product”.
“We make no assumptions about retirement at the age of 55. ‘Downsizer’ simply describes what people are aiming to do, and they’re freeing money held in equity and property to do other things,” says Hanover’s director of development, Claire Anderson.
The downtown option for the more senior citizen is not new to South Africa. It disappeared as downtowns changed, says Clive Mantle, MD of Senior Exposure, an internet company with sites for seniors, including www.seniorservice.co.za, a directory of retirement facilities in South Africa.
“In the 1980s, in downtown Johannesburg and Hillbrow, many apartments were occupied by seniors. These disappeared as the character of the neighbourhoods changed and today there are no seniors’ developments in these areas or neighbouring Braamfontein.
“There’s been movement towards this in Durban, where residential apartment complexes have been converted to seniors’ developments.”
To be welcoming to seniors, says Mantle, a downtown must have: Security. Convenient access to public transport.
Proximity to gardens and amenities.
Medical facilities. The Cape Town CBD is already ahead of the curve, believes Rob Kane, chairperson of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen several mixed hotel/ residential complexes developed in the CBD, and we’re hearing from estate agents that many of these apartments are bought by over-50s owners/occupiers.
“They are coming for the lifestyle options now available in the CBD across venues such as restaurants, art galleries, museums, the Company’s Garden and events such as First Thursdays and Open Streets.
“Since the 2010 World Cup, we’ve also seen the rise of a first-class public transportation system in and around the CBD with the MyCiTi network. Plus, we’ve had the opening last year of the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital and the increasing numbers of med- ical professionals this is attracting to the central City.”
The work of the CCID, says Kane, has made the central City – as recognised by SAPS – the safest CBD in the country. “You therefore have all the basics seniors are looking for.”
Agents who have sold in the CBD’s most recent residential/hotel complex, the Radisson Blu Hotel and Residence, concur, notes Enver Deedat of its developer, Signatura.
“Many owners of 50+ years have bought in the complex, including a few who sold homes in Claremont, Newlands and Wynberg for a small home where security is essential.”
Signatura MD David Cohen says one couple lived in Fresnaye but “sold their house to move to Greyton and use the Radisson as their city pad”.
The difference, says Mantle, between seniors wanting to live downtown in the past and today is today’s seniors enthusiasm for retirees’ developments.
“Security and running costs are a major factor but another attraction is a well-crafted lifestyle.”
Concerns for exploring and expanding the concept for over- 55ers in a vibrant downtown? Mantle says: “My concern would be the high cost of land in the CBD, which is pushing developers to seek land away from the city. But, unlike Joburg or Pretoria, seniors in Cape Town would not be averse to living in medium- to high-density developments. Oasis in Century City has shown multi-storey complexes can work for seniors.”
Cape Town’s CBD is one of the safest neighbourhoods for senior citizens.
Cape Town’s city centre has top eateries.
Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.
Everything is within strolling distance.