Journalist: Jeremy Cook.
The Northern Territory’s peak body for affordable housing and homelessness has called for greater action to address Katherine’s housing crisis.
It comes as the Northern Territory Minister Eva Lawler today announced a Planning Scheme Amendment, allowing for a greater density of housing in Katherine.
It followed last week’s approval of funding by the Territory Government for community housing provider Venture Housing to build eight new affordable rental properties in Katherine.
NT Shelter Chief Executive Peter McMillan said last week’s announcement was welcome news, however, more is needed to counter the town’s accelerating population growth.
“While this announcement is very important, it’s not going to solve the issue or housing shortfall anytime soon,” he said.
“At the moment we simply don’t have the housing that’s needed to support population growth, we don’t even have enough housing as it is for our existing population.”
Renters in Katherine struggling
Housing in Katherine has grown to be a significant issue. Real estate agencies have reported a rental housing shortage, with particularly low rental vacancy rates being driven by major construction projects.
Weekly rents have also jumped, with the median weekly rent price for a house in Katherine rising by 18.34 per cent since the start of the pandemic, reaching $500 per week.
Mr McMillan said big projects in the Katherine region such as the runway upgrade at the Tindal RAAF Base have been putting significant pressure on the rental market.
“When properties become available for rent, they’re pretty much being leased straight away with a lot of competition,” he said.
“There are certainly cases where people are struggling to find anything that’s available, let alone whether it’s affordable.”
“So, what we need to see happen is we need to see land released as as soon as possible to market, we need to make sure that a percentage of that land is for affordable housing for rent and for purchase.”
Earlier this year, the Northern Territory announced a $3 million grant for community housing provider Venture Housing to establish a private rental subsidy scheme called Rent Choice.
The scheme offered eligible key workers the opportunity to source their own private rental housing and receive a maximum rental subsidy of $12,000 for up to twelve months.
Mr McMillan encouraged struggling renters to seek assistance with the Rent Choice program, and called on the Federal Government to provide immediate assistance to renters.
“That scheme is still open and will make a very real difference between whether we’re able to keep skilled workers,” Mr McMillan said.
“We’re also very pleased to hear that the Northern Territory Government has now advised and confirmed that it recognises the need for a short stay visitor park accommodation service in Katherine,” he said.
“But, what’s missing from the discussion is what the Federal Government can do with the state and territory governments to provide some form of increase in assistance to renters that will make a difference right now.”