David and Goliath battle looms over 'lifetime' housing contract

Best and Baume have lived in the village for seven and 10 years, respectively.

A New South Wales retirement village is the unlikely setting of a David-and-Goliath-style battle. And it’s going to take Solomon-like judgement  to work out a fair outcome.

Richard Best, 72, and Stephen Baume, 78, are facing eviction from their retirement village, as the non-profit Vasey Housing Association prepares to redevelop the 55-unit site.

The 54-year-old retirement village is well past its prime, and Vasey’s decision to transform it into a 12-storey, 117-unit building will help to make way for more residents in the future.

In a Daily Telegraph article, Vasey Housing Association CEO David Elkin said the company, which exists to provide affordable housing for older Australians, made residents aware of the impending renovations as early as January 2015.

“The age of the building and its design is not meeting current or future expectations for retirees,” Elkin says.

Ad. Article continues below.

Read more: Australia isn’t ready for aged care demand, report says

Other residents were happy to be moved at no cost to other Vasey villages close by, but neither Best nor Baume wanted the replacements offered to them.

Best, who has lived in the area for most of his life, retired to the Waitara ‘Parkview’ village about seven years ago to remain close to his family, social connections and medical services.

Baume’s illness, meanwhile, requires him to stay close to the Sydney Adventist Hospital and his local doctors.

Both Best and Baume paid more than $100,000 to secure their place in the village for the rest of their lives or be offered “like -for-like” accommodation – something of a similar standard and price in a nearby Vasey Housing Association village.

Ad. Article continues below.

The “replacement” village offered by Vasey is in Epping – 12 kilometres away from where Best and Baume currently live in Waitara.

Elkin contends that several other retirement flats were offered, including properties in two neighbouring suburbs “but they refused all offers as they weren’t in Waitara”.

The nearby village that Best and Baume requested for their transfer had a price guide of $40,000 more than the Waitara village – something Vasey maintained was not within the realms of “like for like”. 

Best and Baume are also not able to move into the new development upon its completion for cost reasons, according to Elkin.

“We are not a commercial developer; we will make no development profit; we will make this organisation as affordable as possible without putting the organisation at risk,” Elkin says.

Ad. Article continues below.

Vasey was set up in the 1960s to provide housing for women aged over 60 who’d served in or had connections to the defence forces. The non-profit’s independent residential accommodation to now open to all single people aged 55-plus,

After Best and Baume failed to reach an agreement with Vasey, the matter was taken up in the New South Wales Civil Administrative Tribunal.

Written submissions were presented last month; this David and Goliath situation will come to a head when oral submissions take place either in late July or early August.

Who do you think is in the right here? The retirement village residents, or Vasey Housing Association?