Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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HomeIssue 3Public housing in decay as Minister pushes for new suburb

Public housing in decay as Minister pushes for new suburb

While Minister Giles is pushing to create 100 residential blocks in the new Kilgariff suburb, Minister Chandler has about the same number of dwellings empty and decaying throughout the town.
A reliable source says some 100 public housing homes and units are vacant, and no or little repair work has been done for months. Repair work slowed after the August election and soon ceased altogether. Apparently this is part of the government’s austerity drive.
Housing Minister Peter Chandler (pictured) has not responded to a request for an interview from the Alice Springs News Online.
The source says any refurbishment that is being undertaken is inadequate: damaged furniture isn’t replaced, waterproofing in bathrooms and kitchens isn’t done, and paint isn’t refreshed.
“It’s minimal maintenance,” says the source. “The few dwellings that have been returned are not being brought up to the proper standard.”
This is giving new tenants little incentive to look after the homes owned by the public, says the source.
A clamp-down on bad tenants in the dying days of the Labor government had begun to show results: inspectors were keeping an eye on the housing stock and people were evicted if they didn’t look after the homes or had too many visitors. This led to much more appropriate conduct by the tenants, according to the source.
Inspections are continuing but “it’s hard to supervise proper care for a home if the tenant gets a place with warped doors, bench tops and kitchen and bathroom furniture swollen from moisture penetration and not replaced”.
Adam Giles, now the Minister for Infrastructure, when in Opposition was a vigorous critic of the then Labor government’s handling of public housing.
IMAGE: A small selection of empty and derelict public housing in Alice Springs (from top) 6 Walmulla Street, 10 Kraegen Street, 74 Gap Road, 97 Gap Road and 6 Arunga Street.
UPDATE Saturday: A spokeswoman for the Minister told us she would be getting back to us on Monday.


  1. I’m glad somebody has spoken up about this matter. Last year I was a caretaker of a residence in Gillen for a fortnight during November so had the opportunity to wander around the neighbourhood a few times. I was disturbed to note the frequency with which I observed empty public housing homes in the area, it seemed to be at least one per street.
    Another location which has caught my attention is the abandoned Alice Springs Bowling Club land on South Terrace. I had a good look at this site during the Christmas holiday period – the whole place is derelict and vagrants have been camping there. I note the NT Government has just announced it is seeking to find a private developer with which to go in partnership for building low cost housing on this land which I think would be a good thing – but why has this taken so long?
    The Alice Springs Bowling Club land is adjacent to a substantial block of church-owned land, too, which is also clearly under-utilized. In light of what has been a supposedly chronic shortage of real estate in Alice Springs, I shake my head in disbelief at what I observe within the town.
    All this prime land along South Terrace in the middle of town is adjacent to long-established services of power, water, sewerage and sealed roads. In the meantime the NT Government, although dawdling, continues to spend millions of taxpayers’ dollars on the Kilgariff subdivision which I firmly contend is the single worst planning decision in the history of Alice Springs.

  2. Housing affordability is the greatest challenge we face, not just affordability in purchasing a home but in rental costs.
    There are many struggling low income earners who either don’t want or don’t qualify for a home loan. Yet we have Housing Homes, which can be described as “affordable rentals” left neglected and empty!
    Not only can this be described as immoral, but as economic stupidity! These homes are vital pieces in the fight for affordability; while they sit idle we are artificially propping up rental prices, reducing affordability, and as a result losing on a continual basis our extremely valuable workforce.
    Housing Homes are not supposed to be, and were never designed to be, “Welfare Housing”, they were intended to assist struggling working families get a start in our community.
    To provide us with a stable work force. These homes were never designed to be town houses for out of town welfare recipients, the perpetually unemployed who want to move to town but have no intention of seeking work.
    Priority should always be given to those who demonstrate willingness to work! Those moving to a job, or those already here holding a job, struggling to make ends meet. A stable work force underpins our economy more than any other factor.
    Affordable “Housing Homes” must be used to facilitate this. The present housing list is years long, many of those waiting are struggling, valuable, working families who would like to stay but can’t afford to.
    If we can’t repair these houses, build more and get these people into them, then we all lose, our economy suffers. The Territory Government needs to show a great deal more urgency not only in getting Kilgariff off the ground with “Affordable” Land but in reorganising priorities for “Housing Homes” away from being seen purely as “Welfare Housing”, while still of course providing welfare housing for those who are already part of our community.
    Prioritising employment must be the determining factor in who out of new arrivals seeking accommodation is prioritised for a Housing Home, call it “Incentive Housing” and – let’s begin to rebuild our decimated workforce. For everybody’s sake, get these houses back into circulation with the utmost urgency.

  3. Bob, I daresay you’re correct, not least due to the current economic malaise experienced in Alice Springs. And the current situation isn’t without precedent, too – I’m referring to the previous CLP NT Government that announced the go-ahead of the Undoolya subdivision in mid-1987 after years of debate about the future direction of growth for Alice Springs.
    That announcement was made by then Lands Minister (and Deputy Chief Minister) Ray Hanrahan, who was also the local Member for Flynn. In early 1988, Hanrahan’s successor as Lands Minister, Daryl Manzie, announced $10 million for the headworks to commence construction of the Undoolya subdivision. Sounds strikingly familiar, doesn’t it?
    As late as 1991 the NT Government was still insisting that the Undoolya development will proceed but the whole thing died as the reality of the national recession bit hard into the Central Australian economy.
    Well, we might not have a national economic recession now but there’s no question Alice Springs is in the grip of a serious decline at present.
    History is catching up with us again, not least because we refuse to learn from it.

  4. So 6 Walmulla St is now vacant. Over the past decade or so I have enjoyed sharing this street with the former tenants. It’s not like we ever got to know each other well, but a few times I have taken furniture down there as we have upgraded, and when I came hobbling back from Adelaide with a tin knee, they were solicitous.
    The memory I will keep of that house is watching on more days than not one or two or a lot of children come streaming out of the gate, scrubbed and uniformed and eager to board the school bus.
    Sometimes they were noisy, but who among us isn’t.
    Wherever they have moved to, I wish them well.
    As I understand it, Undoolya didn’t progress because the cost of head-works in those rocky hills was prohibitive.
    I still think that as Alice Springs grows we will come to appreciate Kilgariff. Of course it will cost too much, but what doesn’t?

  5. In reply to Hal, in the 1980s there were at least five areas around Alice Springs considered by the NT Government for the future expansion of the town (I’ve still got the Lands Department publication outlining all the pros and cons of the options).
    This included three areas south of Heavitree Gap, and all were dismissed as being viable. AZRI was not considered at all, and my local member Ray Hanrahan (in whose electorate AZRI was centrally located) was emphatic to me on one occasion that real estate will never be permitted there (incidentally, he was a local real estate agent before and after he was in politics).
    I’ve also got copies of flow charts for the development of the horticulture industry in Central Australia drawn up by the primary industry department in the mid 1980s – the Horticulture Section’s senior technical officer, Frank McEllister, was quite happy to give me a set (we were in adjoining offices at AZRI).
    An apparent major omission considered for suitable future development of horticulture was the Rocky Hill area on Undoolya Station, and I specifically quizzed Frank on this. I was informed the bore field of this site was being reserved as the future water supply for Alice Springs, especially taking into account the development of the Undoolya subdivision.
    Now, of course, Rocky Hill is a freehold property that has become one of the largest horticulture enterprises in the region.
    Perhaps that’s something we’re all going to regret in future.

  6. Good on you Housing Minister Peter Chandler, something we all knew, but I guess you can always turn the subject when you win government and lose track of the people. You said you set out to help. I guess this whole so called government is inadequate, from Giles to Anderson. It just keeps going. I bet the people who voted for this government are or should be thinking twice now – or should that be once?

  7. A good story about a very important subject with two well considered comments from Alex and Steve, and I am sure as Hal said in his final paragraph “we will come to appreciate Kilgariff”, when and how long into the future this will come to pass is a big unknown.
    However, governments generally do not appear to do any business very well, so why doesn’t the Minister open up all available government owned or controlled residential land for public tender. By doing this the marketplace and demand would determine the pace of development and the price.
    Unfortunately private enterprise without government conditions or incentives do not “do” affordable housing well otherwise they would have been doing it. So the Minister will probably have to come up again with a public / private policy mix on affordable housing (and possibly welfare housing) why else would anybody other than government take on such a risky enterprise? See following a link to the NT Governments Eligibility for affordable housing brochure.

  8. Rumblings over the NT leadership is no surprise what will be interesting and will show is that the NT people made a big mistake when they voted for the CPL.
    I am sure that the people living in the NT are frustrated with the weak inexperienced government ministers and reforms that have put people on the chopping block with high cost of living and overcharging.
    The CLP gave every Territorian, especially the Aborigines, a false myth that the CLP will create true reforms and jobs for the NT people and would maintain economic growth in the north, and to create one in the south. NT voters will wake up to this reality and realize what inexperienced Government ministers they have governing the NT.
    The Chief Minister and the Prime Minister and whoever is in the opposition must develop the NT, especially Central Australia and listen to the people, otherwise the NT risks being left behind the rest of Australia.


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