Govt. should finance private housing: CLP candidate

p2348 Kilgariff homes 2

Homes priced in mid-range under construction in Kilgariff.

p2064-Steve-Brown-130

 

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.

 

p2348 Pine Gap home 2It 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.

 

p2301-Rolf-GerritsenRolf 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.

 

 

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11 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Vicki McDonald
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I think it is an excellent plan Steve Brown.
    As a young couple we purchased our first home from the Housing Commission over 30 years ago through a similar plan.
    We stayed committed to Alice Springs and ran a business for 30 years and reared our family here, because the opportunity was there. Good Luck to you.

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  2. Steve Brown
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:55 am

    @ Dan: There are over a thousand jobs between Nolan’s Bore and the Tellus Salt Mine.
    I also am aware of several other large projects not so far away when they come to fruition we are quite literally talking “thousands” of new jobs when taking into account the resulting spin off growth in the building retail and tourism sectors.

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  3. Dan Murphy
    Posted August 17, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    Seriously Steve. You have been saying big things are coming for years.
    Now its “literally thousands of new jobs in new private industries”.
    It’s good to be positive but it gets a bit hard to believe after a while.
    And thousands of new jobs? In the next couple of years? This is sounding ridiculous.

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  4. Steve Brown
    Posted August 17, 2016 at 6:52 am

    @ Fred: As usual your comments leave me shaking my head.
    Over the next couple of years, provided Labor doesn’t get in and stuff it all up, the Alice is looking quite literally at thousands of new jobs in new “private” industries.
    We need to find good permanent Alicespringites to fill these roles, otherwise we will be subjected to all the community disruption and destruction that FIFO brings with it.
    As a dad and a granddad I am also very much aware of the enormous difficulty young people face getting over the home ownership hurdle.
    I believe we can change that for the betterment of everyone.
    Building costs: As someone who’s been in the industry for many years I can assure you, Fred, it is very expensive to build here mostly because of freight but also because of over regulation. Believe me, there are no big bad builders here making a fortune at householder’s expense! The costs are the costs! Just another reason for us to invest in the kind of housing scheme I am putting forward.

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  5. Fred the Philistine
    Posted August 16, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    I think you all are missing the point.
    Alice Springs needs industry which means jobs. The houses at the Kilgarrif site are expensive and not good value.
    Let’s face it, Alice Springs is a service town for the Indigenous people e.g. walfare.
    If you don’t have a job it is very difficult to buy a house.
    The question to be asked is why building here is twice the price per square meter than other parts of Australia?

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  6. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted August 16, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    I put my hands up: Single mum, four children, was able to buy my home in Plew Street!

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  7. Ted Egan
    Posted August 16, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    I said at his funeral that the late and great Bernie Kilgariff was arguably NTs greatest achiever.
    When he headed up the Housing Commission, every couple in the NT was given the hope / opportunity of being allocated a “government” home, which could be eventually purchased.
    Hands up all the Alice families who identify with that very sensible program.
    Hundreds of houses under construction, thousands of satisfied workers participating.
    No corruption, no shady deals. Just good commonsense. Vale Bernie Kilgariff.

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  8. Steve Brown
    Posted August 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    If you’d been around the place more than five minutes, Jimmy, you would know like the rest of us that this idea really does work!
    I am simply suggesting an updated model. Clearly it will be for all Territorians! Further to that, from the moment we are observed as being successful with it other envious states will also take it up with a rush! That why its important that we get in first.
    We are competing for these staff! Hence the scheme!
    As for the politics, Jimmy, if I’ve got a policy out there that will advantage the Territory enormously, and also gets enough support to get me elected then I know the party will take it up with a great deal of enthusiasm because believe it or not, that’s what the Country Liberals are all about.
    As for the “figures stacking up” Jimmy, well, like anything government does there are costs, we the people have to decide whether or not they are justified costs. So, Jimmy, what price a stable, happy, productive contributing workforce with a growing investment in our community?
    What is it worth to attract the FIFO Jobs from surrounding projects to our community rather than allowing a huge portion of the wealth extracted from the mine to fly away south in FIFO workers’ pockets?
    The most amazing thing about this scheme!
    Government doesn’t pay anymore than administrative costs! The rest is covered by the Home buyer! I reckon the figures stack up.

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  9. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted August 15, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Excellent idea, the old Housing Commission Scheme had worked well and helped a lot of people to buy their home.

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  10. Jimmy Cocking
    Posted August 14, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Have we got any numbers on this? And a personal policy rather than party policy may not have broad support in the party room.
    Is this for Alice or the Territory? So many questions.
    Will we have the answers by August 27 or do we just have to trust that the numbers stack up?

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  11. Steve Brown
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Ed: I’ve been asked a number of questions about this scheme over the past few days. In a simple form the scheme is loosely modelled on the old Housing Commission Scheme, differing in as much as the houses are purchased on the open market not held in stock or built by the commission.
    The intention is to offer a rent/buy scheme in order to both attract and hold staff to fill existing jobs as well as to try and snatch as many of the jobs created by large upcoming projects for our community, in this way extracting the maximum benefit from projects such as the salt mine and Nolan’s Bore.
    Following is a step by step layout:
    1. Client arrives in town, finds full time employment and applies to commission for a rent/buy contract.
    2. Now approved client signs five-year contract guaranteeing five year stay, employment and residency of house.
    3. Client chooses house from private market.
    4. Housing Commission buys the chosen property.
    5. Client moves in and pays rent, equivalent to a mortgage payment, for five years into a loan account the commission has set up for that house.
    6. At the end of five years provided contract terms are met, the house automatically transfers into the client’s name, along with a loan for the remaining amount.
    7. This leaves the client a free agent, already having a little equity in their home mortgage and of course able to sell or transfer the house should they so choose.
    They have now cleared one of life’s biggest hurdles! Getting a start!
    The rest is up to them!
    Why would we do it?
    Because committed workers are good workers. They value their jobs more.
    They provide better customer service as a result.
    People who are committed care more about their community. They contribute more to it.
    The community gains and gains. Employers get better productivity. They save enormously on training and retraining costs and by allowing more people to own their homes.
    We broaden the wealth base of our community. Close the wealth gap that’s been so topical recently.
    People with equity in their homes can borrow to start small businesses. Over time this will result in a much wider more vigorous and innovative business sector you will see all those little shops fill up again and new ones start.
    This scheme fires up our economy – from the bottom up.

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