“We need to find a way for the future houses”

“We need to find a way for the future houses”. Ms Wurrguwurrgu – Ramingining local councilor.

The NT Government’s Remote Housing Program is in need of additional funding to deliver its promised 10 year, $1.1B housing program.
(cite) ABC News: Sara Everingham

We have two points to be made about this news item.

1. Services & Infrastructure

The additional money is ‘needed to prepare land so new houses can be built’ so we surmise from this that the sites still need to at least be connected to water, sewer and electricity. Aside from roads, street lighting, stormwater, capacity of existing infrastructure to take the load of the additional houses and the agreement of traditional owners of the location of these sites, it seems a bit like the cart is before the horse.

To build new houses, the sites must already be agreed upon and then they need to be surveyed and all services provided. Promising new houses prior to gaining consent from all interested parties and not having water, sewer, power and stormwater installed is shakey ground and can provide additional problems into the future. Surely? By the Minister saying ‘they are hitting the ground running’ may imply that the Housing Program could be being rushed.

2. Crowding

The Arnhem Land community of Ramingining has seen seven houses get an extra room built as part of the first stage of the NT Govt Remote Housing Program, ‘Room to Breathe’. 21 remote NT communities have been identified to be part of this program which will ‘help alleviate crowding’ while new housing was delivered.

The focus of the program on crowding is to be commended and we would like to note that there are different approaches to ’reducing the negative impacts of crowding’. How crowding is understood and measured is often based on a density model – number of people to number of bedrooms. But does this necessarily accurately reflect the actual needs of each household? Perhaps another way to see the issue would be to look at stress points within the existing houses. An extra toilet and shower may help reduce the impacts of crowding on the health of the residents more effectively than an additional room. This would need to be assessed with the residents and their actual needs.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the negative impacts of crowding is to ensure all the houses of a community function properly with the residents able to access working health hardware. This is the most time and cost effective approach and can be implemented quickly giving benefit to all community members – Housing for Health Survey Fix project. Further to this, additional facilities (shower, bath, toilet, storage, sleep out)can be included to identified housing with a focus on the yards and edges of the house – HLP 5 & Healthabitat R&D projects. Then by all means build new housing, use the time taken for a repairs & maintenance project to all houses to consult and prepare the sites – The Guide.

The NT Government was closed lips on the number of new homes in the Program and considering there aren’t even serviced blocks ready to go, this is understandable. We would urge the NT Govt to at least have a universal R & M program to the identified communities before the addition of new rooms and facilities.

Then this leads me to the issue of recurrent funding for housing maintenance … but don’t get me started.