Remote housing overcrowding and quality

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Remote housing overcrowding and quality

National remote housing conditions
Early-stage proposal (Stage 1)
Small towns, rural communities and remote areas
Social Infrastructure
Problem/Opportunity timeframe
Near term (0-5 years)
Proposed By
Infrastructure Australia identified proposal
Date added to the IPL
14 February 2019


Relieving overcrowding and improving quality of housing in remote areas can significantly improve social, health, safety, education and employment outcomes for many Australians.

Based on 2016 Census data, approximately 25% of residents in remote and very remote areas of Australia identify as Aboriginal  and/or Torres Strait Islander, of whom 42% reside in overcrowded or severely overcrowded housing.

Overcrowding is influenced by a range of factors including poor housing stock, a lack of affordable housing, insecure tenure and housing that is insufficient to meet cultural needs. Developing new housing can also be constrained by limited access to local essential services infrastructure such as water, sanitation and power supply.

Progress is being made to reduce the proportion of overcrowded remote houses – down from 52.1% in 2008 to 42% in 2016 according to the 2017 Remote Housing Review by the Australian Government,  and projected to fall to 37.4% in 2018.

However, ongoing investment is necessary to ensure the gap continues to close, thereby reducing the high associated  social and economic costs.


Appropriate housing underpins improved outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The National Agreement  on Closing the Gap (2020) centres on  four key priority reforms and establishes 16 national socio-economic targets. These include housing, with the aim for 88% of Indigenous Australians to be living in appropriately sized (not overcrowded) housing by 2031.  
Improving remote housing is likely to require a range of actions, including:

  • addressing maintenance and utility deficiencies for existing and future housing stock
  • renewing life-expired housing stock
  • developing new housing stock
  • addressing tenure issues and providing infrastructure to prepare for land development.

These actions will require Australia’s governments to consider and closely  engage with communities to understand which type of housing will best meet the needs and demographics of different communities in remote areas, including family, climate, cultural, lifestyle and intergenerational considerations. Australia’s governments should also  consider complementary activities to attract commercial investment, land tenure reform and other programs  that improve access to employment and social services.  

Next steps

Proponent(s) to be identified.