Investing in suitable housing means more older people can stay in the rural communities they call home

  • members of CEACA with Hon Mia Davies MLA, the Member for Central Wheatbelt and Hon Terry Redman MLA, Minister for Regional Development; Lands.

Members of CEACA with the Hon. Mia Davies MLA, the Member for Central Wheatbelt and the Hon. Terry Redman MLA, Minister for Regional Development; Lands.  Photo: Wheatbelt Development Commission

The single largest ever investment into aged housing in regional Western Australia has recently been secured by the Central East Aged Care Alliance Inc (CEACA).  CEACA has secured $19.98 million Royalties for Regions funding that will assist in building 75 independent living units (ILUs) across 11 local government areas in WA’s Wheatbelt.

Ageing in place is a given for many living in large regional communities and the Perth metropolitan area, but this is not the case for those living in the State’s small rural and remote communities.

Many older Wheatbelt residents express a strong desire to remain living in their homes as they age, however, factors such as the condition and location of dwellings, the mobility or mental acuity of residents and the logistics of providing services to a dispersed client group present significant barriers to ageing in place.

The demonstrated social and economic benefits  of ageing in place has led to all levels of government developing policies and programs to assist people to age well in their local communities. Eleven Wheatbelt local governments formed a partnership to address the significant disadvantage that people in these rural communities experience due to lack of appropriate housing and support services.

Formed in 2012, CEACA’s membership includes the shires of Bruce Rock, Kellerberrin, Koorda, Merredin, Mt Marshall, Mukinbudin, Nungarin, Trayning, Westonia, Wyalkatchem, and Yilgarn.

In partnership with the Wheatbelt Development Commission and Regional Development Australia Wheatbelt, CEACA commissioned a report into regional solutions for aged care. The report identified that aged friendly communities, age appropriate housing, homecare and support, and residential aged care were essential to developing a holistic approach to providing support and care for older people across the 11 local governments.

Of these four elements, housing is an area in which CEACA’s membership has considerable expertise.

CEACA has embarked on a six-year program to construct 187 dwellings to meet the growing need for seniors’ accommodation across the 11 local government areas. The program addresses market failure to meet this need and is aligned with the objectives of the Western Australian Government’s Ageing in the Bush initiative.

CEACA expects that, when fully operational, the proposed development of 187 ILUs would accommodate at least 210 seniors in communities across the Eastern Wheatbelt who would otherwise not remain in the region.

Cost benefit analyses, prepared as part of CEACA’s applications for State Government funding, demonstrate that the construction of seniors’ housing will have a direct positive benefit for older residents and a net positive economic impact.  The project will also deliver qualitative social benefits.

State Government support has been essential for the project. CEACA has been successful in obtaining funding through the WA Government’s Royalties for Regions for the first two stages of the project.

Stage 1 covers land assembly at a cost of $2,462,800.  Royalties for Regions funding totalling $2,075,800 was awarded to CEACA in late 2015, with member local governments contributing the balance through labour, plant, in-kind services and financial contributions.

Stage 2 of the program will see the first tranche of housing constructed across the region. CEACA has securing further funding of $19,986,439 from the State Government’s ‘Growing the South Initiative’.  This represents the single largest ever investment into aged housing in regional Western Australia. As with Stage 1, CEACA’s members will provide both cash and in-kind contributions.

While in its infancy, the CEACA Seniors Housing Project is the foundation of a long-term strategy to secure the well-being of Wheatbelt residents and communities.

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