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18 July, 2022

Housing still a major issue for Cape: TCICA

Chair Robbie Sands says the issue can't be ignored any longer.

By Samuel Davis

A HOUSING and homelessness crisis may be sweeping the nation but the crippling accommodation shortages are nothing new for Cape York communities. 

In Kowanyama alone, mayor Robbie Sands estimated he has a waiting list of around one hundred families seeking social housing.

“We’ve got 60 families trying to get into two-bedroom homes alone,” Cr Sands said.

“For three-bedroom places it’s probably 30 or 40 families.”

Overcrowding remains a problem, too.

“A few years ago we had a family with 15 people living in a house,” Cr Sands said.

“Right now, it’s common to have seven or eight people living in a two-bedroom house (in Kowanyama).”

Amidst the outcry for more housing across the country, Cr Sands hopes Cape York’s pleas are finally heard.

“Momentum is building around the shortfall but I hope that we don’t get pushed to the bottom of the pile because we’ve had these issues for so long,” he said.

“It’s hard for our families and we hope there is an investment in our community and we’re not forgotten about.

“Some of the problems being raised nationally now, we’ve lived that day-to-day in Cape York in remote communities for a long time.”

The Torres and Cape Indigenous Council Alliance met last week to discuss strategies to address the crisis in their communities.

CENSUS ISSUES

IT’S believed overcrowding has led to a lack of funding for some remote Indigenous communities.  

“It was highlighted by (Northern Peninsula Area mayor) Patricia Yusia that they feel there was an undercount in their Census data numbers,” Cr Sands said.

“The Census data plays a key role in our grant funding because a lot of it is based on population statistics.

“Without taking a deep dive into our statistics, if they’re noticing that, we probably have an undercount (for our population) as well.”

The strain caused by overcrowding can lead to multiple problems, Cr Sands said.

“Utilities are overused. If you have 10 people living in a house there are 10 flushes of the toilet in the house which is more than what those systems are built for,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“There’s also a financial burden. Many people in the household may not receive Centrelink benefits, so they can’t contribute to the upkeep of the house which is challenging as well.”

Calls for more social housing follow a scathing new report released by Auditor General Brendan Worrall.

The report revealed that while the state government’s commitment to start construction on 6365 homes by 2025 would increase supply, it would fail to meet demand.

“The housing system has been under incredible pressure, and this pressure is not unique to social housing or to Queensland,” Housing Minister Leeanne Enoch said.

Shadow Minister for Local Government Ann Leahy said funding existed for Indigenous councils to address the shortage.

“The $105 million Capital Housing Program was approved by the former federal government in 2019 to alleviate overcrowding in Indigenous communities,” Ms Leahy said.

“These communities are some of the most disadvantaged in the state.

“Overcrowding often leads to other social problems like domestic violence or alcoholism.

“They must be given the funding now.”


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