Public housing rents in remote areas


A recent Australian Bureau of Statistics presentation to the Alice Springs Town Council recently showed that the median weekly rent in MacDonnell Shire is $25, and in Central Desert Shire, $20. The Alice Springs News Online asked Territory Housing to confirm this, and asked about the maximum and minimum rents for public housing in the shires. Andrew Kirkman, Executive Director for Remote Housing NT explains:-
Territory Housing manages approximately 5000 remote dwellings which include community living areas in the NT. In collaboration with the Australian Government there has been considerable capital investment through the building of new houses and improvements to existing housing stock under the National Partnership Agreement for Remote Indigenous Housing over the last 3-4 years.
The Remote Rent Framework provides equity through recognising the different levels of housing amenity and the calculation of rent through an assessment of household incomes. As outlined in the Remote Rent Framework there are four dwelling classifications applied, including maximum and minimum charges for rent and housing maintenance levy. As an example, the minimum range is $0 for an “Improvised Dwelling”. Up to maximum of $250 per week [is charged] for a four-bedroom new house.
People residing in “Existing houses” (classification 3) will continue to pay a dwelling charge called a “Housing Maintenance Levy”, which is also capped to a maximum amount for a household based on the number of bedrooms.  In the main people occupying “Existing houses” will continue to pay the previous “poll tax” which can range from $20 to $40 each per person, per week depending on the historical charge prior to Territory Housing taking over management responsibility.
Therefore the amounts quoted by ABS reflect an individual’s payment of rent under the “poll tax” method rather than a cumulative total of household rent received in line with the Remote Rent Framework.


  1. Given Andy Kirkman’s explanation, in this article, about the household poll (minimum amount per person) method used to calculate rent in remote housing, a much fairer and more sensible way for the ABS to represent data about the rent payment levels in the remote shires would be for them to show the cumulative payments per week or fortnight per house, and display the average of these totals for Barkly, Central Desert and MacDonnell Shires in the graph used above.
    To do otherwise is very misleading, and simply serves to feed negative views about Aboriginal people in the remote communities, and so is extremely unfair, and even verging on being defamatory.

  2. I have invited the ABS to respond to Bob Durnan’s comment. As there’s a public holiday in Canberra on Monday, the response is unlikely to come before Tuesday, October 9.

  3. Yes, cumulative payment data showing actual rent collected would be interesting because remote community people’s place of residence is very fluid. I can’t see how the shires could keep up with it in order to collect rent on the basis of where individuals are living.


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