By ERWIN CHLANDA
The NT government has removed the automatic right to have a second dwelling on blocks bigger than 1000 square meters through a simple development application.
That will result in a massive increase of red tape, according to an Alice Springs mortgage broker, Eli Melky.
He says at the time when young people find it hard to get their own home, sharing their families’ land is an attractive possibility.
As this is now much more difficult because it would involve a rezoning application and a development application, with public hearings and no guarantees of success, Mr Melky says young people are likely to be among the losers.
The Alice Springs Town Council, which charges rates on the unimproved value of land, usually does not charge additional rates if the land is used by family members living in a second house.
Council Finance Director Dinesh Pillay says in cases where the extra dwelling is used for commercial purposes, such as rent charged to tenants who are not part of the family, usually the minimum residential rate of $1260 per annum is charged for each dwelling.
Decisions are made on a case by case basis.
The government move, overturning a decision by its CLP predecessor last year, is opposed by the Housing Industry Association (HIA).
HIA Executive Director Neilia Humphries says the process brought in by the government is “very lengthy and very costly for applicants and government, and it will need 1200 square meters,” as she understands.
She says the association is disappointed with the scrapping of the provisions.
“HIA supported the amendment to the NT Planning Scheme in 2016, which was the result of extensive public consultation by the Planning Commission over several months.”
Local HIA member Joel Olzomer says he is not aware of any public consultation in Alice Springs about the cancelling of the previous scheme.
The Alice Springs News Online asked Planning Minister and Treasurer Nicole Manison: “What consultation has taken place in Alice Springs prior to the change and what did those consulted say?” We had received no reply by publication but will report any that is provided.
Says Ms Humphries (at left): “HIA had been calling for reforms to the minimum lot sizes for dual occupancies for several years.
“The amendment recognised the opportunity for low density infill development to occur, which can effectively increase housing supply whilst retaining the character of older suburbs.
“These older properties historically have been of a size that provides scope for a second dwelling to be designed, whilst maintaining sufficient private open space and parking, and maintaining a single dwelling character environment.
“In new suburbs, the minimum lot size is now 300 square meters and this amendment will lock in existing land owners to retaining a single home on lots four times that size.
“The amendment allowed owners a broader choice of housing options, and provided some opportunity for improved housing affordability and upsizing or downsizing options for residents and families in various stages of life.
“This is a disappointing decision and will result in a lost opportunity for many existing home owners,” says Ms Humphries.
Mr Melky (at right) says dual occupancy was a suitable measure in Alice Springs where very little land is being released for residential purposes.
And for some investors it was an attractive opportunity of enhancing the value of a property.
Getting a house without having to buy a block of land – not so long ago going for around $300,000 – seems a way of dealing with the drop in population in Alice Springs, says Mr Melky.
Mr Olzomer says: “It’s important for regulation to keep pace with the changes in peoples’ lifestyle.
“Alice Springs, being a remote service centre, has high demand for housing which is often only used as a weekend base for returning remote community workers.
“In this instance, a small, private dwelling situated at the back of large block might be the preferred dwelling type.
“I am personally not aware of how many people in Alice Springs had made use of the previous policy; however it is vital that the Government continues to work towards reducing red tape to provide increased housing options whilst at the same time preserving neighbourhood amenity.
“Expediting land release north of Heavitree Gap will go some way to providing these options.”
PHOTO: Google Earth image of the Old Eastside, ideally suited for dual occupancy because its blocks are generally big.
By ERWIN CHLANDA