Village venture stings backers

IT'S billed as providing a 'village way of life' for seniors, but big business concerns could soon put an end to the services offered at a pristine Coffs Harbour retirement village.

Coffs Harbour One is part of an investment scheme managed by Village Life Management Limited, which was purchased by the SCV Group in October last year.

Seniors who live in Village Life accommodation rent rather than purchase their units, with the units bought by investors.

For one rental fee, residents of Village Life Coffs Harbour One receive a furnished unit, three meals a day, fresh sheets and towels, as well as organised activities.

But those services could soon be a thing of the past, with the company that provides the management services now crying poor.

In a letter sent to investors in December last year, SCV Group chief executive officer Andrea Slingsby said from January 16, 2009, SCV will no longer be able to provide existing services 'under the present commercial terms'.

“Escalating costs beyond SCV's control have impacted our ability to manage the villages in a profitable manner,” Ms Slingsby stated in the letter.

“Without the ability to on-charge these rising costs to investors ... the company will not be able to continue to operate these schemes.”

Investors in the schemes are anxiously awaiting a series of meetings later this month to learn how revised commercial terms will affect them, with many concerned that they will face a fee hike or the prospect of having to manage the villages themselves.

As part of an online forum set up by investors in the Village Life Pooled Retail Investment Schemes, Lesley Smith echoes the sentiment expressed by many of the investors.

“Investing in this scheme was never seen as a way of us getting rich but it did seem a nice way of helping our elderly while reaping a small reward,” she wrote.

“That being said, we never intended it would become a millstone around our necks.”

The manager of Village Life Coffs Harbour One could not comment yesterday but a spokesperson for SCV said the village residents are 'obviously high priority'.

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