In December 2015, ALRAR spent time in Santa Teresa Community talking to community members about the issues concerning them. Community members identified substandard and badly maintained public housing as the major issue affecting the community.
Community members told ALRAR of feeling ignored by the Department of Housing, after waiting weeks, months, and even years, for Department of Housing contractors to attend to their requests for housing repairs.
In January 2016, a community consultation meeting was held to develop a strategy to address the community’s concerns.
The community supported a proposal for ALRAR to survey the public housing stock in the community, to properly detail the condition of the houses, and to collectively pursue tenants’ rights to have repairs carried out on their houses under the Residential Tenancies Act (NT).
In partnership with Aboriginal Housing NT – and a dedicated team of volunteers – ALRAR spent a week surveying 70 houses in the community (representing 75% of the community’s public housing stock).
The results confirmed that the condition of public housing in the community was woefully inadequate, with badly maintained houses leaving many people without electricity, hot water, cooking facilities or functioning toilets for weeks, months and even years at a time.
Tenants reported sparking electrical wires, serious roof leaks and flooding and broken sewage pipes. Two families told ALRAR representatives that they showered at their next-door neighbour’s house, with the Department of Housing ignoring requests to fix their bathroom plumbing.
On 22 January, ALRAR delivered 70 letters to the Department of Housing offices in Alice Springs, detailing over 600 repairs and maintenance issues in the community, including a significant number of “Emergency Repairs”.
ALRAR did not receive a response to these notices, or to a further letter advising the Department that ALRAR would apply to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal if our clients were not notified of arrangements in place to attend to the repairs.
On 7 February, ALRAR filed 70 claims in NTCAT seeking orders for the Department of Housing to attend to the housing repairs in the community.
We will continue to work with Santa Teresa Community to ensure that their public housing is brought up to Residential Tenancy Act standards, and to advocate for change to the housing management system currently servicing remote Aboriginal communities.