By ERWIN CHLANDA
There is land for 860 dwellings in various stages of development in Alice Springs, yet if you wanted to buy a residential block you’d be pushed to find one. And this is counting only 150 dwellings in Kilgariff which will ultimately provide 4500.
Nothing illustrates more how dysfunctional the town’s land development “system” is, a key reason for the current exodus of productive, middle-class families.
The main players in that “system” are the developers, NT Government, the Power & Water Corporation (an arm of the government) and the Town Council.
The biggest major projects – Coolibah Estate, Emily Valley and White Gums – are foundering or are being delayed for these reasons:-
• failure by the government to support developments – for instance, how close to their boundary should water, power and sewerage headworks be taken?
• the council’s unreasonable demands – for example, could sheet flow of storm water be made to work, or should a project be plunged into failure by requiring for tiny creeks, “drains that could accommodate the Suez Canal”, as real estate veteran Doug Fraser puts it?
• the Labor government, supposedly on the side of the battlers, has consistently taken the side of the speculators by dribbling out in tiny quantities low cost housing land and blocks for first time buyers, lest “flooding” the market would depress prices.
These are the do or die questions and our so-called leaders have opted for die.
Why is the government flagging just 150 dwellings in phase one for Kilgariff when it will ultimately have 30 times as many dwellings?
At the other end of the spectrum are the projects that would make a mining camp appear a leafy suburb: 74 dwellings jammed into the old drive-in is one example; the proposed cheek-by-jowl development in Mt Johns Valley (see drawing) is another.
What is a housing block worth? There are so few available that it’s difficult to tell.
The hard numbers are for blocks in Stirling Heights, says Mr Fraser, which went for an average $120,000 in 2006, and Albrecht Drive for an average of $150,000 in 2009.
Only about 40 blocks each in Stirling Heights and Albrecht Drive were turned off.
A fortune could have been saved by keeping the work going in Stirling Heights – with all the machinery for digging trenches and building roads already in place – rather than capping off that project and re-starting three years later in Albrecht Drive.
Three times as many blocks should have been built at Stirling Heights, says Mr Fraser.
The Mt Johns Valley blocks, at $300,000, will not meet the demand of the first home buyer: “They are at the top end of the market,” he says.
There was a rush of deposits paid for the blocks some two years ago but – in the wake of construction delays – several were handed back.
“The majority of the blocks remain unsold,” says Mr Fraser.
In his view the malaise started when the new government clamped the breaks on land releases 10 years ago. Commentators at the time said the administration was bending over backwards for the newly recognised native title holders.
Mr Fraser says most of the world’s towns and cities grow from their fringes: Alice did with Larapinta, Morris Soak, Dixon Road, New Eastside, Sadadeen.
Native title put a stop to this process although the government – as the Opposition tirelessly pointed out – had options of putting the public good ahead of the demands of a minority.
Instead of taking advantage of the vast amount of space around the town, developers had to buy up “infill” such as old caravan parks, at a massive cost, and the residential land crisis was born.
PHOTO at right: Town council mandated storm water drain at Ron Sterry’s Coolibah Estate – one of the stalled developments.
Housing crisis as 860 dwellings are in development
By ERWIN CHLANDA