Housing in the NT is a critical issue and has been consistently raised at all APO NT forums, community consultations and high level meetings with key stakeholders. APO NT considers housing to be one of the most important and significant issues facing Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. Due to the high level of demand and interest in addressing housing issues APO NT intends to continue to actively engage with this issue.
NT Shelter Homelessness Forum May 2014
APO NT was a member of the NT Shelter Steering Group Committee for the NT Shelter Homelessness Forum in 2014. The forum was held in Darwin on 14-15 May 2014, and the Remote Housing and Overcrowding session included speakers from NAAJA, Central Australian Housing Affordability Company (CAAHC) and two speakers, from remote Aboriginal communities in the NT. The NT Shelter Homelessness Forum Report can be found here.
Stronger Futures Housing and Land Reforms
APO NT made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Stronger Futures legislation and made the following recommendations in relation to housing, that the Commonwealth Government:
- finalise negotiations with the Central Land Council (CLC) and Northern Land Council (NLC) regarding the payment of ‘fair rent’ for the five-year leases and just terms compensation;
- act decisively to re-set the relationship with Aboriginal people by working with the NT land councils to transition smoothly out of the five-year leases into voluntary section 19 ALRA leasing arrangements over communities;
- revisit its secure tenure policy and work with the land councils to remodel the policy so property rights are recognised and traditional Aboriginal landowners’ decision making processes are respected and play a leading role in community development and community management;
- pursue alternative leasing arrangements and should itself apply for leases over its assets on Aboriginal land, in line with its commitment to voluntary leasing;
- must, consistent with the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH), fund, undertake and make public a rigorous and transparent assessment of housing ‘needs’ in remote Aboriginal communities that will then be used to allocate future housing funding;
- must, as a matter of priority, commit to a schedule of new housing to meet the urgent needs of non-Remote Service Delivery (RSD) and non-Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) ‘priority communities’ so as to avoid entrenching tiers of disadvantage;
- need to consistently promote a diverse housing sector that includes prioritising local Aboriginal employment, consistent with the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery (NPARSD). Policies, agreements and funding arrangements should all be drafted to ensure that the housing sector in remote Aboriginal communities can, over the coming decade, diversify beyond public housing;
- should fund life skill training programs and a remote tenancy legal advice service; and
- should convene a taskforce comprising land councils and lenders interested in issuing loans on Aboriginal land if the right security, in the form of a transferable lease, could be negotiated.
For further information see the APO NT submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Stronger Futures legislation.
Tenancy and public housing
In 2009, Territory Housing took control of around 6000 public housing assets in remote communities, under NPARIH. This agreement expires in 2018.
For further background on the changes to governance of remote public housing see Rosenman N & Clunies-Ross A ‘The new tenancy framework for remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory” Indigenous Law Bulletin 7(24),11- 16
APO NT member legal services NAAJA and CAALAS have experienced a large upswing in matters relating to remote public housing since 2009.
Similarly, the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2010–11 indicates that there has been a consistent flow of complaints to the Ombudsman in relation to housing reforms in the NT, which generally relate to: paying of rent, tenancy agreements, process and timeframes for repairs and maintenance, inability to obtain rent statements, poor quality of work under the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) and concerns about Housing Reference Groups.