The AJ talks to Howard Phillips, the chief of design-led elderly living specialist PegasusLife, following its purchase of Renaissance Retirement
What does PegasusLife’s purchase of Renaissance Retirement mean in terms of business scale and future ambition?
The acquisition has significantly boosted our scale. We have doubled our portfolio of developments to more than 70. The purchase allows us to accelerate our growth plans, strengthen our market position and gets us much closer to fulfilling our ambition to be the most admired provider of retirement property in the UK.
When and why did you decide to buy Renaissance Retirement?
In 2013 we set out on a mission to transform the retirement property market in the UK. At PegasusLife we are always on the lookout for ways to achieve that mission, whether by organic growth or acquisition. Renaissance is a leading brand that allows us to further enhance our product offer and geographical reach. The fact that we have so many shared values, such as the adoption of the HAPPI principles, means it is a perfect fit.
Is it fair to say that the quality of building design at Renaissance Retirement is lower than that associated with PegasusLife? If so what do intend to do about it?
We all know that there is currently a chronic shortage of later living accommodation. In order to solve this issue and meet demand, the industry needs to offer a high-quality product at a range of different price points. Renaissance does have a different product but it is a quality offering and one that is proving popular with customers. Both businesses and the individual brands will continue to operate as they have done previously.
Will the new enlarged company be wanting to work with new architects and are you currently looking for architects for any forthcoming schemes?
We constantly seek to get better in every aspect of our business and as a result we never stop looking for the best talent. At present, we work with a number of different practices. We make decisions on a case-by-case basis and our selection depends on what we are trying to achieve with a particular scheme and the services we will be looking to build in.
Is there anything you’d like the government to do for you and for other retirement living developers?
Recently, the government’s position on ground rents has been disappointing. Leasehold houses are a problem but ground rents are important for the later living/retirement living sector.
As a sector, we are not supported by any government incentives such as Help To Buy. The ‘non-saleable’ parts of our developments – communal spaces, wellbeing services etc – add costs to our developments that the open market doesn’t really need to worry about. These services and social spaces add real value for our customers – outdoor space without the upkeep, social spaces to share with friends, guest suites for visiting family, easy access to healthy, nutritious food, a club-like atmosphere for like-minded people, the list goes on. For the government to not understand or recognise that is frustrating, especially given that everyone agrees that we need to be building more retirement property in the UK.
A stamp-duty exemption for people looking to downsize would be helpful.
How would you like PegasusLife to be known?
We have always wanted to be the most admired developer in this sector. We’d like to think we have helped everyone aim a bit higher and think differently about retirement property.
Which of your own schemes are you most proud of and why?
This is like asking me to choose a favourite child. Each of the schemes is so different that it is very hard to choose, but now that we are getting closer to opening up our Tetbury site designed by Proctor & Matthews Architects, I am very excited about that project. Wellbeing and sociability have been cleverly woven through the entire development and it will be a very special site when it opens.