Fine dining on the menu at luxury housing project for the elderly

HONG KONG: A luxury housing project for the elderly now under construction in North Point will include a wine cellar and fine dining restaurants — and for tenants who continue to work, a business centre.

But for those contemplating retirement and wishing to escape the urban environment and office life, a proposed resort-style project in Tin Shui Wai may be a better choice.

The projects are being developed by the non-profit Hong Kong Housing Society and are aimed at providing quality retirement accommodation on life-lease contracts for people aged 60 or over. Excluding land, the projects will cost in the region of HK$5 billion (RM1.96 billion) and will provide 1,780 units for lease.

"One in every four Hong Kong residents will be aged 60 and above within 11 to 12 years from now. Demand for elderly housing will become enormous," said the society's chief executive and executive director, Wong Kit-loong.

The contrasting lifestyle concepts for the developments — one catering for retirees keen to continue a cosmopolitan and urbanised lifestyle, and the other targeting those who wished to settle into a quiet and tranquil living environment — were chosen after the society visited elderly housing projects in Denmark, Holland, Japan, Australia and the mainland, said Wong.

"We will offer two choices for retirees. The Tanner Hill project will be suited to those who want to remain in an urban area to continue with their businesses, and our project in Tin Shui Wai next to the Wetland will be run like a country club," he said.

In addition to its 1,200 tenanted units, the Tin Shui Wai project will feature a 200-room hotel or guesthouse. This could be used by relatives or friends of the units' occupants, he said. Phase one will be completed in 2014 and phase two in 2017.

The Tanner Hill development, comprising 580 units ranging in size from 700 sq ft to 1,400 sq ft, is due to be completed in 2013.

Wong said more than 600 potential tenants had indicated an interest in leasing units in the two projects when the society conducted a survey with 1,000 interviewees aged over 60 and with assets valued at over HK$10 million. Rentals have not yet been fixed, but Wong said they would be referenced against prevailing rental transactions in the nearby district.

Taking into account the planning restriction on the two sites which must be used for accommodation for the elderly, Wong said he believed the land premium charged by the government should be relatively lower than what it charges for ordinary residential sites.

The society has two existing subsidised projects catering for the elderly — the 243-unit Jolly Place in Tseung Kwan O, and the 333-flat Cheerful Court in Jordan Valley.

The projects offer accommodation for middle-income retirees aged over 60 as well as a rehabilitation and health care centre, gymnasium, and activity rooms. Tenants have to pay a lump sum ranging from HK$300,000 to HK$600,000, for the use of the flats for the rest of their lives.

Asset qualifications for single applicants in the two existing projects are set at between HK$1 million and HK$3.3 million, and between HK$1.5 million and HK$4.95 million for couples.

Yuen Ka-lok, 82, moved into Cheerful Court six years ago after he had a heart attack. He was on holiday in Hong Kong at the time and unfit to take a long-haul flight back to London where he was living.

"I had no choice but to stay in Hong Kong with my wife," said Yuen, who initially rented a unit in Telford Garden for HK$7,000 per month.

After learning from his son about the society's two Senior Citizen Residences, Yuen decided to move into Cheerful Court.

He paid a lump sum of HK$490,000 for a 552 sq ft unit and on top of that he also pays a HK$1,200 monthly management fee and a HK$300 monthly caring fee that includes a regular health check.

"The elderly housing project's caring services are extremely helpful. In the first year, I was in and out of hospital eight times," said Yuen.

"The incidents usually happen late at night but each unit has an emergency bell beside the bed that connects to a 24-hour nursing centre. So the centre is able to send staff to check on us around the clock."

Now that his health has improved he has established a busy social life and meets regularly with other retirees in the estate. "We have dim sum breakfasts together or visit each other's homes regularly for parties," he said.

Chu Ming, 73, sold her 30-year-old 200 sq ft apartment in Kwun Tong and moved into a 560 sq ft unit at Cheerful Court in 2005. She and her husband paid about HK$550,000 to rent the unit for life.

Chu said her children encouraged the move because they became concerned for the safety of their parents as the run-down apartment in Kwun Tong in which they were living had once caught fire.

"All my kids have married and they have their own families, and we wanted to maintain our independent life," she added, so she cashed out of her flat and with the assistance of a contribution from her children, was able to lease a unit at Cheerful Court.

"Now my four children and five grandsons visit us every weekend," she said.

Chu said some elderly people could not easily be convinced that it was a good idea to make a one-off payment of half a million dollars to secure a flat for life on a rental basis.

"But it is value for money as I have lived here for more than six years since making my payment. Also, I enjoy living here very much," she said.

About 70 per cent of tenants at Cheerful Court are aged between 73 and 75 and the turnover rate of units in the estate was just three per cent.

The Housing Society's Wong said applicants for units should not view their one-off payment for elderly housing as a kind of investment.

"The money you spend is to ensure that you enjoy your retirement life," he said. — SCMP
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