Pearson backs plan for home ownership

By: Tony Koch, Jared Owens

NOEL Pearson has led indigenous people in embracing Queensland's plan for a concessional system to boost home ownership in remote Aboriginal and islander communities.
The Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership director says home ownership is the foundation indicator of development in society. Writing for The Australian today, he says that in his Cape York community of Hopevale, everyone is a renter except for a few people who have built their own homes.
Mr Pearson -- who has been in dispute with the Queensland government over the wild rivers legislation -- said the action by Premier Anna Bligh in 2007 to allow 99-year leases for home owners in Aboriginal communities facilitated home ownership.
``The tragedy of our disputation over wild rivers is that it has overshadowed the role Anna Bligh has played in advancing indigenous reform,'' he said.
``The home ownership agenda that has been announced is evidence Bligh not only gets reform, she actually sets about putting it into practice.''
His enthusiasm for the Queensland scheme comes despite problems faced by the federal government's Home Ownership on Indigenous Land program, which has approved only 16 home loans since it was set up in the 2006-07 budget.
The government is unlikely to meet its target of approving 70 loans by July next year, with only one new loan made this financial year.
Mr Pearson said home ownership was necessary for housing to be sustainable, because long-term tenancy is not conducive to care for a home as a natural corollary of ownership.
Hopevale Mayor Greg McLean said home ownership was the right of all citizens and he supported moves that enabled his people to purchase their homes. ``We are instituting a five-year trial at Hopevale and there is land set aside and subdivided for new housing,'' he said.
Queensland Housing Minister Karen Struthers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Desley Boyle yesterday released proposals ``to take indigenous home ownership out of the too-hard basket''. Ms Struthers said a major change was to apply realistic valuations, and her department had begun valuing homes in communities at their real value to a buyer instead of replacement cost.
``This system has put values of homes on communities in the range of $80,000 to $150,000.''