Homes priced in mid-range under construction in Kilgariff.
By ERWIN CHLANDA
In a bombshell statement CLP candidate for Araluen Steve Brown (pictured) has announced a personal policy of extensive involvement by the NT Government in the provision and financing of privately owned homes.
It is not CLP policy but he says senior figures in the party are looking favourably at the idea.
He says conditions would be far less onerous than those offered by banks which require substantial deposits and have qualification processes that are often unreasonable.
The major requirement of Mr Brown’s scheme is that applicants live and work in Alice Springs for at least five years after becoming part of the program.
Those who drop out early would lose the collateral they had built up through their mortgage payments made already, making them no better off than having paid rent. The house would go back into the pool of homes available under the scheme, says Mr Brown.
It is tailored primarily to the needs of young people and middle income earners who are shut out of buying a home because of high prices.
Meanwhile Pine Gap is in secret negotiations to sell part of its housing stock in Alice Springs.
It is understood that the military base is drawing up a schedule for a staged disposal of dwellings in the town (similar to the one pictured at left), to avoid further depressing the real estate market which is on a downward trend.
The “Space Base” has not responded to requests for details made by the Alice Springs News Online mid last month and yesterday.
Mr Brown says his plan has been in gestation for some years, and is loosely modelled on affordable housing policies of his uncle, the late Senator Bernie Kilgariff. The new suburb south of Alice Springs is named after him.
The scheme would bring new people into town and encourage present residents to stay.
It would boost the construction industry and ensure that workers at two mining projects likely to start soon would be locals, who shop in town and contribute to the community, its sports and social life, rather than FiFo crews.
He says there may be room for banks in this scheme so long as they did not compromise its intentions.
In the mid 1970s, when the Territory was still governed by Canberra, the generous provision of government housing underpinned the massive growth of Alice Springs at that time.
A typical scenario was that someone arriving in town would have no difficulty getting a “commission home” almost immediately.
Within about a month or so an offer would be made to the tenant to buy the house, for a $600 deposit (2.3% of its value) and repayment of the $26,000 purchase price over 40 years at 4% interest. These days banks require deposits of about 20%.
Whole subdivisions of hundreds of blocks were developed by the Federal government and the blocks not used for public housing were sold at cost.
This form of developing residential land was abolished by the party for which Mr Brown is seeking election, the CLP, when it formed the first Territory Government following the declaration of self-government in 1978.
Rolf Gerritsen (pictured), Professorial Research Fellow at the Northern Institute, says Mr Brown’s proposal is similar to the state housing schemes that were popular elsewhere in Australia in the 1940s and 50s and kept going longer in the NT.
He says if people have a stake in a place, such as owning a house, they are much less likely to leave.
“It also reduces inequality,” says Prof Gerritsen. “It is an idea that deserves broad discussion.”
UPDATE August 29, 9am:
Kay Eade, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in Alice Springs, says she has had an informal meeting with Pine Gap staff. The “base” had confirmed that some of its 400 dwellings in town will be sold but did not disclose how many nor when, except to say it will be a staged release.
The Alice Springs News Online has now made three requests to the Australian head of the base to return our calls, without result.