Helping Indigenous tenants achieve a successful tenancy

The implementation of local Indigenous staff and creating connections with health and community services can help indigenous Australians have more successful tenancies, new research has found.

The study, from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), said about 60 per cent of Indigenous Australians lived in rental accommodation, compared to 30 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.

It also showed there was a significant need for more affordable and appropriate housing for Indigenous Australians.

The report identified the need for local indigenous staff and support services to help with engagement and to develop an understanding of tenant circumstances.

Indigenous Australians also achieve better tenancy outcomes when connections with broader health and community services are established to assist tenants with underlying issues that could impact their tenancy.

According to AHURI, Indigenous Australians living in private rentals and in urban settings typically had the least stable tenancies. While those living in remote Australia, have low rates of homeownership and often live in higher-density community housing. 

Lead researcher from The University of Adelaide, Dr Megan Moskos said Indigenous Australians can often face a difficult time securing appropriate accommodation.

“Indigenous people commonly experience both direct and indirect discrimination when searching for a property within the private rental market,” Dr Moskos said.

“This discrimination sits alongside a lack of affordable and culturally appropriate housing for Indigenous people as well as long waiting lists for public housing.

“The housing that is available to Indigenous tenants may not provide a good fit between cultural norms and ways of living, nor with regard to household size and composition.”

Dr Moskos said there was a big difference between the way Indigenous communities used housing compared to non-indigenous.

“We identified that cultural differences between the way Indigenous and Western families use housing were not adequately accounted for in rental housing service provision and tenancy agreements,” she said. 

“For example, the traditional responsibilities of Indigenous tenants to house extended family members when needed can conflict with the expectations of landlords around visitors and overcrowding, and thus threaten tenancy arrangements.

“Successful tenancies are also helped by programs that work with all members of a household; allow for regular engagement; and have strengths-based program aims and ethos which seek to encourage and support Indigenous Australians to achieve their housing aspirations.”

The researchers have called for governments and Indigenous organisations to implement more policies and programs that have been shown to improve Indigenous tenancy outcomes.

One suggestion is improved housing-allocation policies to ensure Indigenous tenants have greater choice of properties and can access them in their preferred location.

However, this may take some time to positively impact tenancy outcomes given housing availability and affordability presents challenges.

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.