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Oct 4, 2009

Retirement homes with a difference

The concept of senior citizens’ homes is now well established in India because of changing lifestyles and the facilities they offer.While many homes provide basic healthcare facilities, not many offer the specialised care the residents may need as they grow older.A Coimbatore-based real estate promoter, who has executed projects for senior citizens here, is now planning such projects at the national level.

The company will offer homes for senior citizens, assisted living facilities and nursing care for those afflicted with serious illnesses.Col (Retd) A. Sridharan, Managing Director, Covai Property Centre (India) Private Ltd, Coimbatore, said the company has built about 200 cottages for senior citizens in Coimbatore with plans to set up 400 cottages/apartments in the next two years. The current project meets the requirements of the first stage independent living only.

Unique model

He said the model he plans to adopt is unique in that it combines freehold property, leasehold property and nursing care arrangements, depending on the requirement and ensure the financial security of the senior citizens at different stages of their lives.Senior citizens who may be mentally alert but physically weak could take on lease space in designated assisted care blocks. If needed the occupants could sell their freehold property at the market price.Subsequently, even the leased space could be traded in if they move to the nursing-care stage. This ensures that the residents earn some profit out of their previous investment ensuring their financial security till their death.

Separate company

He said he has planned to form a separate company that would exclusively focus on retirement communities as Senior Care Projects, as the emphasis is more on the care to be provided.Initially, these would come up near Chennai, Bangalore and Pune, and later in Hyderabad, Kochi and Hosur, apart from Coimbatore over the next 5-6 years. He is expecting external funding for these projects. The company is doing an online survey at www.covaiprop.com .

The homes would come up on 15-35 acre sites. Fifteen per cent area would be reserved for assisted care, and the hospital would have 20-25 beds. There would be exclusive centres for those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer.He put the investment required for each project at Rs 100-125 crore. The work on the Chennai project, to come up near Perungulathur, will commence in the middle of next year and become operational in two years. Independent homes and assisted living facilities would come up first, along with requisite amenities. Nursing care would come up in the later stages of the projects.

The aim is to price studio apartments of 600-700 sq.ft at Rs 20-22 lakh, two-bedroom apartments of 1,000-1,100 sq.ft at Rs 30-35 lakh and villas around Rs 60-70 lakh, excluding levies and taxes.

Recurring expenses will be ‘affordable and commensurate with the facilities being provided’ and for assisted care/nursing care, the cost is yet to be worked out.Currently, in Coimbatore, he charges about Rs 3,000 for food per person a month and maintenance cost is Rs 2 per sq.ft of the plinth area of the dwelling, which covers the staff cost also.

Government support

He said the Central and State governments should support senior citizens living in such retirement homes and the care givers who build the facilities.Incentives under the new Direct Taxes Code could come in the form of reduced stamp duty, exemption from service tax and sales tax (for construction) and IT exemption on housing loans taken for such facilities.He said the promoters should get tax exemptions under Section 80 IB, exemption from infrastructure development charges, VAT relief, etc.

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