David vs Goliath in Waitara housing battle

Ghost town: Stephen Baume and Richard Best in nearly deserted Parkview
Ghost town: Stephen Baume and Richard Best in nearly deserted Parkview

Two elderly tenants face having nowhere to live after their retirement village is to make way for a 12 storey high rise apartment block.

Richard Best and Stephen Baume went to the NSW Civil Administrative Tribunal earlier in June to put their case. It has been adjourned for written submissions from both sides, and is likely to be reconvened in August when oral submissions will be heard.

Both men were on lifetime contracts, paying just over $100,000 to secure a home in the village for the rest of their lives. However under Section 136 of the Retirement Village Act owners Vasey Housing Association are permitted to relocate residents to ‘like for like’ accommodation.

The men were residents in Parkview Village in Waitara when owners not for profit Vasey made the decision to demolish the village due to its parlous state and age.

The intention is to replace it with a $47m 12 storey building with 117 flats after Vasey had relocated the 55 residents. Of these, 35 were renting under a tenancy agreement, while the remaining 20 – six men and 14 women – were all on lifetime contracts.

Richard, a 72 former Qantas airworthiness surveyor who’s lived there for seven years, and 78 year-old Stephen who worked in catering, has been there for 10 years, are now the only two remaining, refusing to go.

Central to the case is that while the other 53 residents were relocated to other areas across Sydney, the offer to relocate Richard and Stephen to Vasey one bedroom units in Epping didn’t suit them as it was 12km away.

“Vasey’s offer is unacceptable to both of us,” said Richard. “This is the area I’ve lived in all my life. My sister is in Wahroonga and all my medical and social connections close by. Vasey have not even attempted to try and find us somewhere locally.

“We suggested the Grange across the Pacific Highway to where we are as an alternative, but they didn’t want to know.”

Vasey denies this is like for like as Grange is an upmarket retirement village with dining facilities, swimming pool and tennis court, with flats costing significantly more.

Stephen has an illness that means he needs to be close to the San Hospital and local doctors, as well as to pick up his grandson from school in Waitara four afternoons a week.

“All we want is to be offered is like for like,” said Stephen. “That means a unit of a similar standard and price. The trouble is what they’ve offered us is too far away.”

Their solicitor Peter Hill is defending the men on a probono basis. He told the Monthly Chronicle: “It’s not only the fate of these two men, but also the bigger picture it represents for  people in retirement villages across Australia. It’s very much a David versus Goliath situation.”

However Vasey CEO David Elkins said there has been offers on the table prior to tribunal stage.

“Apart from the offer of being relocated to Epping, we offered them similar accommodation in Uniting Church retirement flats of similar size and valued at $140,000 In Normanhurst and Wahroonga and West Pennant Hills but they refused all offers as they weren’t in Waitara.”

Given these other flats were valued at $40,00 than what Richard and Stephen originally paid, David said: “I’m sure the Vasey Board would have accepted paying the difference to help them into these new flats.

“But as it stands the wheels of the tribunal are in motion now and we need to see what the tribunal decides.”

Richard said they never received such an offer of that nature and if they put an offer like that on the table now, “we would consider it.”

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