By ERWIN CHLANDA
Until recently anyone to get this one right went straight to the top of the class: Who’s going to live in the 100-plus or so flats, units and other dwellings under construction now in Alice Springs?
The answer is getting easier: 45 of the new dwellings are covered by the NT Government’s Real Housing for Growth initiative which provides a 10 year rent guarantee at market rates.
This includes 25 town houses nearly finished by Probuild in Larapinta Drive (picture below). Manager Phil Danby says 14 of these are three bedroom and 11 are two bedroom.
Just south of The Gap and on the eastern bank of the Todd, 20 of the 40 town houses, into which the 80 motel units of the Heavitree Gap motel are being converted (picture above), also fall into the Real Housing for Growth scheme.
That complex is owned by Australian Property Projects Group (APPG).
The Department of Housing says no government employee housing is currently under construction in Alice Springs.
But it’s likely that these 45 rent-guaranteed units, which can be purchased by investors (19 of APPG’s 20 already have), will be occupied by government workers such as nurses and police officers.
But APPG General Manager Tim Langmaid says there is also brisk interest for the 20 units intended for the “owner occupier” market, with an average price tag of $340,000: 15 have already gone, mostly to local buyers.
Ian Drummond, the Executive Chairman of APPG, which has properties also in Darwin and Kakadu, says his outlook on the economic future of The Alice has switched from “really pessimistic to really optimistic” in the past three months.
He says aside from the demand for accommodation, experienced by his firm, the setting up by the government of a Central Australia Development Office in Todd Mall is a “good sign”: it will be in the historic Marron’s Newsagency, long closed, part of the Aurora hotel building and next-door to the Red Ochre Grill Restaurant.
It’s where investors will get the low-down on opportunities in The Centre, and the facility will “transform the Mall,” says Mr Drummond.
Of course, much of this – following the relocation to Alice of Tourism NT – is happening with taxpayer’s money.
It will be interesting to see what helping hand the new Melanka gets from the government. The story broken by the Alice Springs News Online, that the formerly Alice-based Osborne family will go ahead with a development on that long-empty site at the top of Gap Road, has now been confirmed: Dean Osborne will be addressing the town council on Monday.
And there’s more: 60-plus dwellings at the old bowling club site in South Terrace; accommodation for base staff in Stephens Road, refurbishments of flats in Allchurch Street; and, of course, the new suburb of Kilgariff where 30 blocks are nearing completion and more are on the drawing board.
Most people we have spoken to haven’t known how the apparent glut of homes would be filled.
This was one story, most likely falling into the category of “if you haven’t heard a rumour in Alice Springs by 10 o’clock, you start one”: Pine Gap is expanding with the rise and rise and rise of the Republicans in the US of A.
The most frequent “fingers crossed” tip is the salt mine at Titjikala which is still in its financing phase.
If it comes to fruition, according to Tellus Holdings, between 280 and 350 people will be employed during construction of the mine and 180 people when it is operating.
But it’s not all smooth sailing.
One builder speaking to us on the condition of not being named says the government and the town council “are like seagulls on your throat” as soon as you put up your hand for a development, clamouring for fees and control.
The government’s promise of cutting red tape has a long way to go.
The town council, although in charge mostly of drainage, has its hand out. Bartering sometimes achieves a significant drop in the charges, says the builder.
And unlike other states, where the government takes headworks (including power, water and sewerage) to the edge of a real estate development at reasonable prices, here they cost a fortune.
Meanwhile the Larapinta Drive project has overcome the hurdle of having the gas tank of the service station next door too close for comfort (and regulations).
A “solid, reinforced wall” has taken care of that problem, says Mr Danby.
By ERWIN CHLANDA