Access to safe and secure housing is a social determinant of health and is a critical foundation for Closing the Gap and building resilient, strong communities. Council has a portfolio of 900 social houses, making it the largest housing provider in the North Queensland region, however insufficient funding leads to a constant waiting list for housing. Many residents awaiting housing are faced with overcrowding, homelessness, and health and safety challenges. Some existing Council houses require removal of asbestos in order to be habitable.
Council’s Register of Needs currently has over 300 applications for social housing.
55 Council homes are affected by asbestos and cannot be inhabited until asbestos is removed properly. Eight properties deemed “high risk” are being reviewed by the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy.
Private home ownership is particularly challenging in our communities, due largely to low incomes. The RACGP has outlined the risks of overcrowding in its publication The National Guide to Preventive Health Assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
The absence of suitable and available housing is an obstacle to Council establishing employment opportunities within communities and building community capacity and capability.
The impact of asbestos contamination extends to the well being of our people and the cost of removing asbestos is compounded by the need to freight and properly dispose of asbestos once it is removed.
Reliance on community housing remains relatively constant, however the cost of building (or renovating) continues to rise with the passage of time.
Building in the Torres Strait region is particularly expensive. A 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom new build typically costs approximately $800 000.
Council has identified potential sites for new homes and subject to engagement with Traditional Owners, is able to fast-track building approvals to enable rapid commencement of new builds.
A tender would be let for new builds and for an asbestos removal program, noting that some asbestos removal is occurring under the repairs and maintenance program run by Council.
Homelessness and housing stress can profoundly affect the mental and physical health of individuals and families, as well as impact on their education and employment opportunities, and their ability to participate fully in the community.
Overcrowding situations within Torres Strait communities has shown a downstream effect on the number of serious health conditions, like respiratory infections, rheumatic heart disease and conditions like melioidosis.