• Young girls play in Titjikala, 120km south of Alice Springs. (AAP/Lucy Hughes Jones)
Major housing program seeks to tackle severe rates of overcrowding and homelessness.
By
Lucy Hughes Jones

5 Jul 2017 - 1:58 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2017 - 2:02 PM

Titjikala resident Belinda Campbell bounces her one-year-old granddaughter Cecilia on her knee as she watches construction workers pour slabs of concrete outside her home in the central Australian desert.

Seven family members live together in the small house, and Ms Campbell says getting an extra bedroom and a secure verandah extension would make life easier.

"People (are) squashed up. There's no room, no privacy," she said. "Today it's getting better."

Titjikala, an Aboriginal community 120km south of Alice Springs, is one of 24 communities plagued by chronic housing shortages targeted by the Northern Territory government's 10-year $1.1 billion remote accommodation program.

This month work began on additional living, sleeping and cooking spaces for local families under the rollout of Labor's flagship election policy.

The initiative will be delivered by local workforces and will be guided by local decision-making, with tenders awarded to several Indigenous businesses.

Member for Namatjira, Chansey Paech, said the strategy will also deliver more power to the bush for tenancy management, repairs and maintenance.

He said it's about "empowering our mob to do the jobs" instead of fly in fly out contractors.

Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy admits the issue has been ignored for too long, and this scheme will take a decade to be completed. But he also concedes the record investment still won't be enough to get the job done, and the Gunner government wants the Commonwealth to chip in and match that money.

The NT has the worst rate of homelessness and overcrowding in the country, with Indigenous people making up 98 per cent of those living in severely overcrowded conditions.

The NT royal commission has heard the Aboriginal "housing crisis", where up to 30 people live under the same roof and kids sleep on the floor, is a key driver of youngsters entering the child protection and youth detention systems.

Crowded housing affects a child's capacity to maintain hygiene, allows infections to pass quickly, and increases exposure to cigarette smoke and loud noises; while poverty limits nutrition, the commission was told.

This has created an "epidemic" of hearing loss in Indigenous kids that leads to learning difficulties, and other issues.

Mr McCarthy says a good home has lasting impacts on health and education outcomes that are key Closing the Gap targets.

"This massive project will create hundreds of jobs and improve thousands of lives," he said.

How the $1.1B will be spent:

   - $500m to build new homes.

   - $200m to build additional living spaces on existing houses.

   - $200m for repairs and maintenance

   - $200m for new government employee housing

AAP