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CHINA’s URGENT NEED FOR SENIOR HOUSING

China’s population is ageing – with forecasts for 200 million over 65s by 2025. With government subsidies and benefits on the way, real estate opportunities are rife to accommodate this ageing market.

July 2015

China is getting old. The United Nations Population Division has classed the country as having a “rapidly ageing population”, with forecasts for the number of individuals over 65 to reach 200 million in 2025 and 300 million by 2050. Already, by the end of 2015, the population of over 65s in China will exceed 1350 million.

Housing the elderly was once the sole responsibility of the government, but as figures rise, China has realised that demand could soon outstrip supply. Potential is therefore exponential for real estate developers and investors who can be quick to react and target this market.

By the end of the year, nearly 10% of China’s population will be aged 65 or above. This makes it the 10th largest senior population in the world, ahead of Japan and just behind Russia, according to data from the UN.

However, China’s population is aging faster than the global average. By 2025, 13.5% of the population will be aged 65 or above. This ageing population will require a massive development of housing and care facilities.

Colliers International, in its recent report Ageing China: Opportunities in Real Estate for Senior Housing looks at the potential waiting to be discovered.

Several government policies have been introduced to attract foreign investors and private domestic enterprises. In February 2015, the government called for the adoption of preferential policies for private capital in this field, as it gets firmly behind the need of this social development.

TIER ONE OPPORTUNITIES

According to Colliers International there are numerous opportunities for developers and investors in China’s tier one cities. Colliers reports that the population of individuals above the age of 65 in three of these cities – Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – is higher than China’s national average, and is approaching levels seen in the USA, UK and Japan.

In 2013, the proportion of individuals aged 60 or above in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou exceeded the national average of 14.9%. In Guangzhou, this figure was 16%; in Beijing, 21.2%; and in Shanghai, 27.1%, or nearly double the national average. Collectively, these cities alone have a total of eight million residents aged 60 or above.

Families in tier one cities also have a higher per household disposable income, are usually one-child families, and have relatively advanced standards for health care. However, despite this, the senior housing market is still largely undeveloped.

THREE-STAGE DEVELOPMENT

Colliers International, in its Ageing China: Opportunities in Real Estate for Senior Housing report, states that “China’s senior housing industry is still in an early development stage, and market participants are experimenting with various business models. These projects have three major stages: investment, development and operation.”

Historically, one participant has often handled two or more of these stages. However, Colliers predicts that multi-party development will become the norm on projects in the future. Colliers stated: “An investor will fund construction, a developer will acquire the land and execute the construction, and the building will be operated by a third-party management company.”

The Ageing China report says that insurance companies are best placed for investment, given their strong capital base and long investment cycles.

Examples of the tri-party system are already being seen. In Shanghai, the Fortress Investment Group, an American senior housing investor and operator, and Fosun Group launched a joint-venture project named Star Castle. In Beijing, developer Sino-Ocean Land partnered with American senior housing operator Emeritus to develop Chun Xuan Mao Cascade, with China Life Insurance a major shareholder in the deal. At Vanke Xingfuhui, developer Vanke Group has delegated operations to Cherish Yearn, a public-private senior care provider.

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