New study finds that most teachers cannot afford rent where they teach
Research finds that Sydney teachers are unable to afford rent near their workplace. Image: Canva.
  • Teaching staff shortage is reaching crisis levels
  • Unaffordable rent near schools is intensifying the shortage
  • Teachers need to be provided pathways to affordable rent and home ownership

Australia’s shortage of teachers has reached critical levels, with the Minister of Education Jason Clare stating in the Teacher Workforce Shortages – Issues paper, “Australian schools are facing unprecedented teacher supply and retention challenges.”

The challenge to adequately staff school systems is a global issue. Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay announced on 2022’s Teachers Day that 69 million more teachers are required for the world to reach universal basic education by 2030.

The shortage of teachers is an issue that is complex and multifaceted. Commonly cited issues exacerbating the problems include demanding work loads, poor pay, and a lack of respect for the profession. Emphasising the severity of the matter is a report released by Monash University on teachers’ perceptions in 2022, which found that 72.4% of teachers planned to leave or considered leaving the profession.

New perspective on the teacher shortage

New research published in the Australian Educational Researcher has shed light on another dimension affecting the teacher staffing emergency — the absence of affordable housing around schools.

The study found that over 90% of teaching jobs across New South Wales (NSW), or 50,000 full-time positions, were situated in Local Government Areas (LGAs) with housing unaffordable on a teacher’s wages after analysing data on house sales and weekly rental costs.

“The study shows the last time a first-year teacher salary could comfortably afford the rent for a one-bedroom dwelling was around a decade ago.”

Professor Scott Eacott, study author and Deputy Director of Gonski Institute for Education at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), housing is deemed unaffordable when housing costs exceed 30% of an individual’s income.

“Commutes of more than an hour would not be uncommon, which is a lot of productive time lost for teachers, not to mention all the hidden costs of tolls and parking,” Eacott says.

He reiterates that Sydney schools will face difficulties drawing in new talent and may even run the risk of losing teaching veterans because teachers are unable to find affordable housing close to their work.

It is estimated that NSW requires 13,000 additional teaching staff in the coming decade to accommodate student needs.

Providing pathways to homeownership for teachers

Further fuelling the crisis is that no government department or private sector is singularly tasked with housing essential workers. Though there has been more investment by superannuation funds like Aware Super to invest in housing projects delivering affordable rental units to essential workers, these measures alone are unable to mitigate the crisis.

Eacott says that the most obvious answer is to increase teaching staff salaries.

However, he added that this solution will only solve supply-side issues and do nothing to alleviate the high demand for rentals, given record low vacancy rates.

Moreover, he states that more pathways must be made available for teachers to secure home ownership in a market where it is impossible for a teacher in a single-income household to purchase a property.

“We rely so much on our teachers, so it’s only fair we take steps towards providing them and other essential workers with affordable and secure housing options.”

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