Homelessness has many causes including: lack of affordable housing; unemployment; mental illness; family breakdown; domestic violence; drug and alcohol abuse. People can experience homelessness as an isolated event, for long periods of time or in cycles which are difficult to break from. Homelessness causes social exclusion and further disadvantage.

The ABS definition of homelessness counts people as homeless if they are: in improvised dwellings or sleeping out; in supported accommodation; temporarily staying with other households; in boarding houses; in other temporary lodging; or in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings. The ABS defines severe crowding as when a dwelling requires 4 or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there.

Homelessness Quick Facts

  • The NT has 12 times the national average rate of homelessness.
  • 6% of all people in the NT are experiencing homelessness.
  • Nationally 0.5% of the population is homeless.
  • 1 in 5 Aboriginal people in the NT are experiencing homelessness.
  • 16.5% of all Territorians under the age of 18 are experiencing homelessness.
  • 81% of people defined as homeless in the NT live in severely crowded dwellings.
  • The NT has 13 times the national rate of people sleeping rough.
  • 13.5% of all people sleeping rough in the NT are under the age of 18.

Number of Territorians in supported accommodation by age grouping

  • Under 18
  • 18 - 34
  • 35 - 64
  • 65+

Total number of Territorians experiencing homelessness by age grouping

  • Under 18
  • 18 - 34
  • 35 - 64
  • 65+

Social Housing

Social housing is a subsidised form of rental accommodation available to people who meet the eligibility criteria, which typically include having a low or very low income. Social housing is made up of public and community housing.

• Public housing is social housing that is managed by a Government housing department, agency or authority.

• Community housing is social housing that is managed by a non-Government agency, usually a Community Housing Provider (CHP). It can include accommodation for people who would be eligible for public housing, as well as providing below market cost housing for low-to-moderate income working households. Some community housing providers also provide crisis or transitional accommodation.

Rents for social housing are typically set with reference to a household’s income, with eligible tenants generally paying a maximum of 23 per cent of income. Unlike leases in the private market, which are limited to a maximum of 12 months at a time, leases for social housing are typically ongoing and many tenants stay for many years.
Another way of describing social housing is that its rental housing provided by not for profit, non government or government organisations to assist people who are unable to access suitable accommodation in the private rental market.

Aboriginal & Remote Housing

Aboriginal housing in the Northern Territory has changed significantly over the last ten years, particularly the way it has been delivered and managed. In the 1970s and 80s, many aboriginal housing organisations were set up to manage housing in communities as part of the push for self-determination. In 2007, as the Australian Government began rolling out its secure tenure policy, self-management was replaced by public housing policies, procedures and contract arrangements.

Prior to 2008, all remote Aboriginal community housing funded by Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments was managed by Indigenous Community Housing Organisations (ICHOs). Some 75% of ICHOs were run through local community councils, who had authority over allocations for new houses and other management issues. Decisions were made within the community.
Despite these positive aspects the system, as highlighted in a 1998 report by Spiller Gibbins Swan, was dogged by poor governance in some ICHOs, a paucity of funds, lack of legal framework around tenancies (tenancy agreements), inadequate attention to long term asset management, overcrowding and under maintenance were identified as critical issues affecting the performance of ICHOs.

The Commonwealth and Territory governments made changes to remote housing management from 2006 onwards and from 1 July 2008, most ICHOs ceased to exist when the community councils under whom they operated were dissolved and amalgamated into eight shire councils.

The major policy shift to a public housing model was further made possible by the compulsory acquisition of the 5 year leases over many remote communities as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER). (from excerpts from the Aboriginal Remote Housing Forum, March 2015)