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Thursday, 5 July 2018

(The Star) More retirement housing projects needed

Although developers are building more retirement housing estates to cater to the growing market, Para Development managing director Ng Fui Kong said there have been no retirement housing project that has proven successful in Malaysia.

“The majority of them are projects that tried to incorporate designs and features that can be helpful to retirees and senior citizens.

“A few times in the past, Malaysian developers offered senior citizen housing just like in the United States, where they cater to not only active and independent retirees, but also those needing medical assistance and nursing care.

“However, we have not witnessed any successful senior citizen housing models and there are no successful retirement communities or housing projects that are catered to foreigners in Malaysia to date,” he told StarMetro.

With Ipoh being recognised as one of the nine most affordable places to retire in the world, Ng, who was the man behind the five industry experts and researchers’ recent field trip to Ipoh, said capturing the foreign retirees market could be a shot in the arm for the state’s economy and development.

“As a true-blue Ipoh-born, I say Ipoh is the most liveable city in the country and there is no doubt Ipoh has much to offer.

“We can make Ipoh a remarkable retirement place, not only for locals but also foreigners,” he said.

In 2014, Kathleen Peddicord, who is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group, published in money.usnews.com that Ipoh was one of the nine most affordable places to retire in the world.

With more than 28 years of experience covering this beat, Peddicord said one needed a monthly budget of US$897 (RM3,616) to live in Ipoh, which she placed third on her list.

In her article, she said despite having a population of more than half a million, one could expect first-world health care and a modern infrastructure without overcrowding or skyscrapers.

She said Ipoh was an increasingly popular retirement haven among Malaysians, who claim its fresh air, clean water and relaxing lifestyle not only improved the quality of life but also promoted longevity.

Ng aspired to see a retirement housing project that was organised in a way that appealed to foreign retirees – friendly, inexpensive and comes with all the important services that they might need.

“We are exploring with foreign experts on how retirement housing can be offered and organised here.

“We are researching on the right housing model that is easy for foreigners to come in and retire.

“With no successful cases so far, we are trying to understand the deficiency of this model and explore if we can overcome them in Ipoh,” he said, adding that the research was estimated to complete in less than two years.

Ng also said foreign retirees in general had little interest in property investment and preferred housing that can give them a full range of services.

“They are more interested in spending their golden years in a place with comprehensive support and good infrastructure, particularly in patient transfer, medical access and other living-related services.

“We believe that condominium projects with good security and support is suitable, since they do not need a very big place as they are not coming with their whole family.

“It is mostly individuals or couples living there.

“Easier to maintain than landed property, condominium living will make it easier for occupants to establish close ties with neighbours, which can be useful when any of them want to leave temporarily for their home country,” he added.

Ng noted that it requires a lot of research, communication and planning to come up with a feasible project like this.

“The Government also plays a pivotal role in making it work, in terms of legislation, immigration control, promotion and support to developers and other stakeholders.

“It is different from the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme that requires certain qualification, paperwork and conditions, some flexibility could be extended to foreign retirees,” he said.

Also, Ng pointed out that Malaysia is the No. 1 retirement country for Japanese, with over 20,000 families, who were former expatriates living here.

“With this in mind, Ipoh certainly has what it takes and is able to accommodate several thousands of retirees, not just from China, Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan, but also other nations,” he added.