Developers Ready Land Lease Projects for Ageing Population

Many of Australia’s biggest developers are finding opportunity in an ageing population, building up their pipelines with new land lease communities in highly sought-after coastal hotspots.

Leading a renewed charge into the asset class as it evolves and grows has been Stockland, which last year added Queensland lifestyle villages group Halcyon to its retirement living portfolio in a deal worth $620 million.

The move by Stockland’s chief executive Tarun Gupta was part of a radical strategic review to cut its exposure to retail and retirement living assets, instead boosting investment in residential through build-to-sell and build-to-rent apartments, as well as in land lease communities.

Stockland sold its $987-million retirement living portfolio to Sweden’s EQT Infrastructure in February as part of its new approach.

The new strategic direction for Australia’s largest residential developer is aimed at downsizers and retirees who are asset rich but cash poor, and who are potentially missing out on unlocking their existing home equity to change their lifestyle to suit their needs.

Halcyon, which has continued to run separately to Stockland’s retirement holdings and land bank, operates a manufactured housing estate business model, buying large plots of land and building houses which are exclusively sold to people aged over 50.

Renters and property investors cannot buy the houses, nor can they be purchased with a mortgage with the aim of building a sense of community among residents. The ongoing cost of leasing the land is reduced through government assistance.

While residents own the house, they don’t own the land so pay rent on the freehold land the home sits on, avoiding government charges such as stamp duty or council rates as well as exit fees.

In exchange, residents get access to maintained communal facilities such as tennis courts, bowling greens and outdoor barbecues.

Halcyon Greens
▲ Halcyon Greens is on a 34ha island at Pimpama, surrounded by native wetlands and nature reserves and next to Gainsborough Greens golf course.

The group’s most recent development, Halcyon Greens, a $325-million over-50s lifestyle community at Pimpama on the northern edge of the Gold Coast, will be a focus of The Urban Developer’s Residential Land Lease Communities vSummit on April 14, giving the opportunity to learn more about the project’s successful launch and delivery.

Halcyon’s vision for the community, to create modern country club living where homeowners would have private access to a golf course and clubhouse, was inspired by a research trip to the US.

The developer acquired a larger 114ha site from Mirvac in 2016 before carving out a 34ha parcel for the Halcyon Greens project, which is next to an existing 18-hole golf course at Mirvac’s established Gainsborough Greens development.

At the time the group said it had pursued the Pimpama site, despite the area being an unattractive retirement destination with no local buyer pool, after forecasts from Urbis projected an influx of 6000 baby boomers to the greater catchment area during the next 20 years.

The group overcame a number of major planning and development issues that had prevented Mirvac from proceeding with its own plans for the site.

This included the running of the golf club and course, which needed to be rebuilt and relocated.

In addition, extensive consultation was held with the surrounding community and landowners to manage the Gold Coast City Council environmental and water issues. As well, the developer worked with Habitat Environment to rehabilitate the 10ha of wetland surrounding the site and then provide a corridor connection to the 300ha Nyamul Wildlife Sanctuary.

Halcyon launched the development in mid-2017 and was met with high demand. It is recognised as one of Australia’s fastest-selling lifestyle communities, selling out its first stage in 10 months and achieving more than $250 million in sales.

The now-completed community, which features 522 dwellings spanning 23 different home designs, includes a recreation club and lodge, cinema, gym and wellness centre, indoor and outdoor pools, floodlit tennis courts and bowling green.

It is also now the home of Australia’s largest purpose-built pickleball facility with eight floodlit courts.

Homes within the estate have been built using materials including steel frames, hebel panels and insulation, and include 3.5kW solar panels for solar hot water.

Halcyon, which has been developing since 2003, has a further eight communities, home to more than 2500 people, around the state—on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Moreton Bay and Logan regions.

Stockland has quickly moved to take Halcyon interstate, with a 280-home community, clubhouse and recreational facility in the works within the masterplanned St Germain Estate and next to the future St Germain Town Centre in Melbourne’s outer suburbs.

Stockland’s also has two land lease community projects close to its coming Halcyon estate in North Clyde, including Stockland Halcyon Minta in Berwick, which is currently under development, and Stockland Halcyon Evergreen in Clyde, which is in planning.


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