The following section provides an overview of key messages relating to a number of priority areas but is by no means exclusive. NT Shelter policy is also outlined further in our advocacy and submissions.
1. Our Key Principles
2. Aboriginal Housing Disadvantage in the NT
NT Shelter recognises that Aboriginal persons in the Northern Territory are significantly over-represented in terms of homelessness and risk of homelessness. Particular hardship and challenges are faced due to a chronic lack of suitable housing in Aboriginal communities.
Insufficient progress has been made to date against Closing the Gap targets. We note that housing has been included as one of the key priorities in the targets set by the committee in the Special Gathering Statement presented to COAG. The proposed Indigenous prosperity framework discussed at the round table has identified access to affordable good-quality housing as being key to the economic and social development of Indigenous people.
Good quality housing underpins all of the Closing the Gap targets in health, education and employment, as well as community safety. These are not our words. They are those of the Prime Minister in 2018. Chronic overcrowding and poor quality public housing in town camps, remote communities and urban centres must be addressed as a matter of urgency if meaningful progress is to be made.
NT Shelter recognises that to realise our vision of appropriate and affordable housing for ALL Territorians, it is essential there is better engagement with, and local decision making by, local Aboriginal controlled organisations and communities.
We believe that there is a need for a strong voice and representation of Aboriginal communities in the provision of appropriate housing. To that end, NT Shelter is supportive of the establishment of Aboriginal Housing NT (AHNT).
3. Funding for Homelessness Services
The NT receives approximately $18.8 million in Commonwealth funding or 1.3% of total funding but has 12 times the national rate of homelessness.
With twice the level of unmet client demand compared to other states, the current level of funding for specialist providers of homelessness services is overwhelmingly inadequate. The NT needs to receive funding for homelessness services based on need, not on a per capita basis.
The demand for specialist homelessness services is rapidly increasing, with a 13% increase on the previous year. We need a better funded sector to meet the needs of homeless persons and those at risk of homelessness.
4. Overcrowding in Aboriginal communities must be addressed as a priority
81% of the NT’s homeless persons live in severely overcrowded housing. Aboriginal persons represent 88% of all homeless Territorians.
It is estimated that a further 2,750 new homes need to be built in remote NT by 2028 to reduce severe overcrowding.
Further Commonwealth and Territory Government investment in remote housing is essential in order to eliminate overcrowding in Aboriginal communities and ensure that all Territorians have access to safe, appropriate and affordable housing.
An effective homelessness strategy needs to include actions to address homelessness where it is most prevalent, including additional investment in homelessness services.
5. Crisis Accommodation
Most if not all crisis accommodation centres have insufficient capacity to consistently meet need and there is an absence of suitable crisis shelter facilities in many instances.
Shelter provides much needed respite for victims to escape immediate danger. It is unacceptable that vulnerable women and children have no option but to stay at home in a highly dangerous environment or enter into homelessness for lack of short term crisis accommodation.
Capital investment is needed to address demand shortfalls so that people fleeing domestic, family and sexual violence are not turned away.
Services need to be sufficiently funded to ensure adequate resources are available for counselling, including outreach in regional and remote communities.
NT Shelter strongly supports current and further collaboration between government and nongovernment organisations to work across the community to eradicate domestic and family violence and reduce the incidence of DFV induced homelessness.
In addition to providing sufficient capacity for women’s shelters, there is an absence of men’s shelters and youth shelters across various communities.
6. Public Housing Stock and Wait Times
There is a significant deficit in available public housing stock, much of which is ageing and in poor condition, resulting in unacceptably high wait times for eligible applicants.
The Northern Territory Government has acknowledged that public housing wait times and growing numbers of applicants on the wait list are “very challenging”.
Ongoing and additional investment in public housing is needed, recognising other options also need to be explored including social head leasing, stock transfers, growth of the Community Housing Provider sector.
We need a National Housing Strategy to address Australia’s broken public housing system and ensure that there is sufficient supply of social and affordable housing to meet growing demand.
7. Affordable Housing
There is insufficient affordable housing available for low to moderate income earners struggling to pay market rent.
It is estimated that 1 in 4 low to moderate income Territorians are in rental stress, where more than 30% of their income is allocated to rent.
The growth of the community housing sector (CHPs) and options for access to private rental should be encouraged.
The introduction of a bond aggregator for CHP finance is welcome but further incentives that bridge the gap to market rent are necessary in order to ensure the supply of new affordable housing.
Amongst other things, a Commonwealth led initiative similar to the current National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) is needed.