If I told you that letting the grass grow in and around your senior living or retirement communities could be a value-add strategy that benefited the investor, operator, and resident, would you tell me to nip it in the bud?
Before I go ahead and plant the seed, let’s look at what is perceived to be the issue. Service charge costs are a necessary component of providing housing for older generations and has been subject to continued scrutiny over the years – more so than ever following the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis. No matter how many times an operator states that they are transparent and competitive, it can often be tricky to demonstrate tangible examples of works undertaken back.
Well, I have a solution to this and it’s why I suggested you put the lawnmower away, and it’s all to the benefit of increasing biodiversity, and by that, I mean providing ecosystems for plants, animals, and microorganisms to live.
New legislation due for publication this month but not becoming mandatory until January 2024 will require developers across England to deliver 10% “Biodiversity Net Gain” when building new housing, industrial or commercial developments. This means they will have to assess the type of habitat affected and its condition before submitting plans to the local planning authority detailing how they will deliver a 10% benefit for nature.
And just to illustrate the growing market on the consumer side for this. According to Strutt & Parker’s housing futures survey, 86% of those over the age of 66 said that it was important their next home was already environmentally friendly/sustainable. A mere 8% of 66+ said green/sustainable living wasn't an important motivator when looking for their next home. 65% of those aged 66+ said being near nature and green space would benefit their mental health and wellbeing, the highest proportion of all age groups. A total of 32% cited herb/vegetable gardens and 77% that outdoor space as boosters to mental health and wellbeing.
Embracing biodiversity as a strategy can alleviate some of those sometimes grumbled about landscaping costs that fall within the service charge, whilst at the same time delivering a compelling ESG proposition that benefits all stakeholders.
And just to be sure I emphasise the benefits to each, I’ll break it down for you all…
Aside from the pretty obvious environmental benefits to the portfolio in terms of providing habitats for native species and protecting endangered plants and animals, there’s a social value play can be often overlooked, but is a vital one. Promoting physical and mental wellbeing whilst contributing to local conservation efforts can bolster credentials. Often this will be down to your choice of operator, but get it right, and your proposition will speak for itself.
Implementing natural landscapes can also enhance property values. A UKGBC report, found that proximity to areas covered with vegetation, which can range from playing fields and highly maintained environments to relatively natural landscapes, can deliver an uplift of up to 10%.
Then there’s protection of your asset against climate change, of which biodiversity can play a role in contributing to resilience. Diverse ecosystems are better equipped to withstand environmental changes, providing a buffer against extreme weather events and supporting local ecological services, such as pollination and water purification.
In competitive markets, being able to demonstrate a strong commitment to biodiversity can develop a unique identity that attracts like-minded individuals. This shared passion for nature can foster a sense of belonging and purpose among residents, strengthening the community bonds.
You could choose to partner with local conservation organisations, schools, and universities to foster a sense of community engagement, which can position your community as one that gives back to the local area – strengthen the S (social) in ESG.
Let’s not forget that many older generations have a wealth of life experience and a desire to continue learning, and these communities can serve as centres for environmental education and lifelong learning. Providing opportunities for residents to learn about the natural world will help to attract them to deciding to live there.
Natural spaces filled with a variety of plants, birds, and other wildlife offer a sense of tranquillity and connection to nature. This connection has been linked to reduced stress, improved mental well-being, and overall happiness.
It can also positively impact the physical health of retirees. Engaging with nature encourages physical activity, such as walking, gardening, and birdwatching. These activities help seniors maintain their mobility, flexibility, and cardiovascular health, ultimately leading to a better quality of life in their later years.
Then there’s the social interaction it provides among residents. Gardening clubs, wildlife observation groups, and communal outdoor spaces provide opportunities for seniors to connect with their peers, fostering a sense of community and combating social isolation.
In conclusion, embracing biodiversity around senior communities is a multifaceted approach that benefits both the environment and the residents. In an era of increasing urbanisation and environmental degradation, these communities have the potential to take on a whole new positioning that benefits all stakeholders – take a leaf out of what I’ve said today.
This article first appeared in React News
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