Whilst the housing affordability has generally worsened over recent year in Australia, as the price to income ratio has risen to 6.9x (sept 2016) compared to 15 years ago of 4.3x(coredata), the Darwin Real estate market has bucked the Australian trend with the price to income ratio now at an all time low of 4.8x compared to its peak of 7.2x 7 years ago.
This however has meant that thousands of Northern Territorians and in particular Darwinians remain underwater with their mortgages and average monthly transfers (properties sold) are less than 200 compared to over 600 in late 2009.
The massive drop in public employment due to NT governments in succession employing Austerity measures has lead to thousands of people being unemployed or under-employed and this has lead to one of the greatest unreported recessions in Darwin’s economic history.
Probably one of the worst accounting tricks the government has used is manipulating employment figures Australia wide to create a false sense of security. In the NT you only have to work 1 hour per week to be considered employed as opposed to 5 hours per week in other states and compared to 25 hours a week the requirement in the 1980’s.
On the rental side there has been little change Australia wide with an average 29% of income being spent on rent. However the Darwin Market has experienced over a 30% drop in rental prices over the last 3 years and this has meant that Darwinites are spending as little as 20% of their income on rent.
This however has not lead to a reduction in Homelessness Assistance programs with 8000 Territorians accessing programs over the 15/16 period, that’s 3 times the national average of 1.1%. That attributes one in every thirty Territorians are accessing Homelessness programs and 80% of those are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The main Reason for Homelessness in the Territory was domestic violence (40%). On any average day many are facing a daily choice between housing, food, and violence. Meanwhile many working families and the mentally ill are living in their cars, in shelters or simply living rough. This in 2017 is Unacceptable.
These scenarios lead to higher crime rates, inter-generational poverty and mental health issues and a lack of adequate educational and employment opportunities for our youth.
Working together, this is what we can do in Council to address the affordable housing crisis.
It is no secret that hundreds of families are struggling economically. Meanwhile, decent and affordable rental properties are hard to come by. There are on average 640 properties empty in the Darwin area during any particular time. This rises during the Wet season and lowers during the dry.
According to homelessness programs there are about 200 families in the Darwin area that are unable to access clean affordable homes. That is unacceptable.
Owning a home remains one of the best ways for families to build wealth and enter the middle class. However for decades now, wages have not kept up with the median costs of homes, putting ownership out of reach for thousands of Territorians.
The valuation crisis of 2010 and the tightening of the financial system in 2010 due to federal responsible lending criteria may have ensured that our local market didn’t continue to bubble out of control but it placed a tremendous brake on our economy. This local housing crisis that began in 2010 has wiped out the entire household wealth of thousands of families, particularly but not only our local Greek/Australians who were particularly affected by the building slump and the drop in value of their assets. Also our new Australian residents lost on average 7% just after purchasing the home due to Stamp duty and marketing costs and who had disproportionately purchased and invested in the Local economy seeking the Australian Dream.
How did it Happen?
The local government under the advice of economic treasury advisers got convinced of the following beliefs.
The Territory was big enough to look after itself
Our economy was only based on Housing and resources
Our First Australians would want to move into the big cities
Major projects and major development contractors and foreign corporations would invest in our local economy
So Lets deal with the facts first.
The Territory’s population is too small to take advantage of even a smidgen of our economic ability. Our economy was and is still mainly based on the following resourceful sectors;
Federal government funding, NT and Local government employment, Indigenous and regional services,
Defense contracting and employment separate from other federal government programs, the housing sector, the resource sector (large employers but low tax payers), Tourism, local economy.
Subsequent governments have allowed major foreign corporations and trans-national companies owned by overseas corporation to strip-mine our resources and leave large environmental impacts all over the top end.
Helping Homeowners with debt relief
For thousands of Territorian families, and for many hard hit communities, the housing crisis is not over. According to Core logic over 85% of persons who have purchased a home since 2010 owe more than the houses are worth. Whilst the taxpayers in our country provided bank guarantees to the four largest financial institutions in this country we have never provided an adequate lifeline to those Owners now drowning in debt.
Council can investigate creating a local council funded community bank to provide fixed term loans to those in financial stress.
Council can provide access to resources such as local parks and carparks for Car boot sales/ markets and can investigate the creation of a Darwin Farmers Market as a revenue raising facility and local employment and tourism hub.
Council can implement a Rates increase freeze for the next 3 years from 2018 to allow the market to adequately correct without further financial pressures.
Council can implement a raise in its minimum wage and remove 3 month working contracts and implement minimum 6 month contracts with a stable 2 year contract to be offered after skills and services of employees are verified.
We can reinvigorate and reinvest in our local council assets providing greater use of facilities and reasonable costs and where possible provide local facilities for education and employment programs this can create greater revenue to invest in our local community
We can invest in our infrastructure and park maintenance programs and include dog parks, calisthenics and exercise facilities, community gardens and, more hygiene facilities.
We can provide greater CCTV and Larrakia Nation patrols to ensure the safety of our community members.
Demand more affordable housing from developers in the Darwin Area. Housing that is built with government subsidies should remain affordable much longer and Council by-laws created to ensure such structure remain vibrant and maintained.
Council can provide facilities with Non government organization partnerships to provide shelters for those most vulnerable in our society. Whilst providing better recording and statistical information to the Government so as to increase funding for social projects.
Provide Housing education facilities and counseling. Studies in Europe and America show that people who receive financial counseling prior to buying a home are more likely to succeed at home ownership. Financial counseling is a good investment in families and communities.
The council can implement the creation of covered walk ways in and around the city centre to allow patrons and business owners and employees to use the Darwin facilities year round and not just during the dry season.
The council can create paid parking areas on council land close to several markets, with paid employees to ensure the safety and security of the vehicles in said parking area’s.
For example – Rapid Creek Markets, fenced carpark at land adjoining Rapid Creek inlet, Gold coin donation for security, parking inspectors. Upgrade of the carparking area adjoining the Wanguri Primary school for Weekend Car Boot Sales with a gold coin donation for parking patrons and sellers.
Remember if you want to help me help you, please share your voice and vote for Sam4Rishardson this coming August.
Written and Authorized by Sam Wilks. The views included may not be those of others mentioned in the article but are those of Sam Wilks. If you have other idea’s feel free to comment below. Idea’s and differing opinion is recognition of a free and just democratic society. A Society I am happy to live in. Please however try not to be abusive or discriminative, you may be. But if I feel that your opinion may be harmful or is reported as being harmful, I will delete it.