NEWS: Australian and NT Governments Announce $4 Billion Investment in Remote Housing: Will it Alleviate Crowding?

March 12th, 2024

The Australian and Northern Territory (NT) Governments have revealed a monumental investment plan totalling $4 billion dollars, aiming to construct 2700 new houses over the next decade in remote Aboriginal Communities with a stated aim of reducing crowding. While applauded by Healthabitat, a critical concern arises regarding how this initiative will effectively address the pervasive issue of crowding across the NT’s 73 remote communities.

David Donald of Healthabitat emphasises, “Replacing an old house with a new one doesn’t reduce crowding when the toilet blocks and everyone has to shift next door.”

Merely building new houses will not suffice. To truly alleviate crowding, this substantial investment must be complemented by comprehensive upgrades to existing houses and a robust plan for enhancing repair and maintenance programs. Without these essential components, the impact of the investment will be limited.

The majority of residents in NT’s remote communities will continue to reside in older homes while new houses are constructed around them. Many of these existing homes can be efficiently upgraded at a fraction of the cost of new housing construction. Functional accessible bathrooms, kitchens where people can store, cook and prepare food safely and liveable yards are crucial to meeting the recommendations for reducing crowding outlined in the National Indigenous Housing Guide.

If governments wish to create opportunities for local employment in remote communities, housing upgrades and preventative maintenance programs present a more sustainable opportunity than a new housing building program that will have an end date.

Drawing upon 25 years of data collected from 10,000 houses surveyed and repaired across Australia, Healthabitat offers the following recommendations to the Australian and NT Governments:

  1. Thermal Control: Ensure all new and existing houses meet a minimum 8-star energy efficiency rating to combat rising temperatures due to climate change.
  2. Major House Upgrades: Allocate capital funding for major upgrades of existing houses to prevent crowding and stress on new homes.
  3. Planned Preventative Maintenance Programs: Increase funding for preventative maintenance to shift from the existing emergency-based program and provide opportunities for local employment.
  4. Housing for Health: Utilise sentinel site surveys to independently assess and monitor housing conditions, informing evidence-based policy decisions.
  5. New Serviced Allotments: Infrastructure agencies need to urgently work with housing agencies to address the shortage of serviced land in remote communities to accommodate new house builds without demolishing existing houses.

Dr. Paul Torzillo of Healthabitat asserts, “Alleviating crowding is not hard – investment of this magnitude is a huge step forward, but replacing 2700 houses will not achieve this critical goal alone.”



For further inquiries, please contact: David Donald / Healthabitat
Ph: 0439 435 234