This article describes approaches to the pricing of houses in communities on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, arguing that existing approaches are unlikely to result in the creation of a sustainable home ownership market.
Introduction: About a decade ago there was a widespread debate about the introduction of home ownership into communities on Indigenous land. Often that debate was conducted in the most reductive of terms. In particular, a great deal of emphasis was placed on the role of communal land ownership in preventing home ownership and people with concerns about its introduction were characterised as ideologues and naysayers. That was not helpful, as there are a number of real barriers to the introduction of home ownership and those barriers need to be discussed and worked through. On the other hand, neither is it helpful to dismiss the potential for home ownership out of hand. There is considerable evidence that many people living in Indigenous communities would welcome its introduction.
It is nevertheless a complex issue, raising several issues that require careful attention. This article considers just one of those issues, albeit a significant one. It describes approaches to the pricing of houses in communities on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory (‘NT’). The article argues that existing approaches to the pricing of houses—and in particular new houses—are unlikely to result in the creation of a sustainable home ownership market, and put some purchasers at risk of significant financial loss.
The Australian Government is yet to adequately address this issue, although there are some positive signs. Earlier this year, the Council of Australian Governments released a discussion paper in which they identify the risk of purchasers being unable to on-sell a house they have purchased. More recently, the new Minister for Indigenous Affairs acknowledged that in the past prices have been set too high, although to date his government has not articulated how it intends to address this. As this article demonstrates, the issue does need to be addressed, particularly if the government intends to make widespread home ownership in communities on Indigenous land one of its ‘chief goals’.
The concern of this article is home ownership in discrete Aboriginal communities. It does not address the issue of home ownership on Aboriginal land in urban areas, such as on town camp land, where different market issues arise.