Dharma Care’s Community Housing Project

Since 2017, Dharma Care Inc. (DCI) has been studying the feasibility of creating a Manufactured Home Estate (MHE) to provide affordable accommodation for low- to middle-income earners and retirees. Compared to many retirement villages, MHE’s are more flexible, less costly and legally less complicated, and some of these estates are not restricted to retirees.  MHE’s provide independent living within a community with shared recreational and other facilities. 

I visited Peter and Isti, long-time friends of Dharma Care Inc., who live on a long-established MHE in northern NSW and interviewed them about their MHE experience over a scrumptious brunch which Isti had prepared for the visit. Their description of life on the estate will guide DCI in advancing our community housing project.

Peter and Isti in their living room

Peter and Isti purchased their house in August 2020. At the time it cost $280,000.00. One of the advantages of the MHE model for the buyer is that house purchase prices are often 60-70% of a normal house price. A little over a year later, they believe the value of their house has appreciated by approximately 40%.

Their home consists of two bedrooms, a compact kitchen and a spacious living and dining area. It is attractively decorated with exotic artifacts from their extensive travels. In the space between their home and their neighbour, Isti is able grow some vegetables.

Houses vary in size and style

The grounds are extensive and beautifully maintained; rows of houses of all sizes and styles are arranged along the estate’s many streets; most have well-tended flower beds or potted plants in front of them. Every house has a driveway and a garage.

Prospective residents of this particular community must be over 50 years of age. Many of the approximately 250 residences are occupied by retirees like Peter and Isti. Peter pointed out that there are quite a few widows living in their community as well.

Each household is required to pay an affordable weekly fee to cover land rent, council rates, water and maintenance of the grounds and shared facilities: there are two swimming pools, a tennis court, two common rooms one with an exercise bike and a table-tennis table, a bowling green as well as a large hall with a deck overlooking the nearby lake. “Grey nomads” can park their camper vans in the specially appointed camper van parking lot.

Residents can participate in numerous activities: aerobics, aquabics, table-tennis, line-dancing, cards, darts and choir, just to name a few. There is a Social Committee which organises large celebrations, concerts and happy hours.

There is a hospital nearby, and the estate provides a bus service to ferry residents to the shops. The nearest beach is a short drive from the estate.

Should disputes arise on the estate, they can be referred to a tribunal provided by the government.

Dharma Care has commissioned a feasibility study to build such an estate in northern NSW. If that study works out, the next steps will be to put together funding arrangements and start to look for land.

One of our goals is to ensure rental accommodation is available for those on low incomes such as pensioners. Many recent studies show that most retirees cannot find affordable rental accommodation. As a result, they live in poverty, sacrificing essentials such as medications and electricity, or become homeless. We are trying to find a way to help such people.

Thank you, Peter and Isti, for your help in contributing to this blog.

DCI can learn a great deal from your life on the MHE.

Miyako Armytage