nurse confused
Early career nurses could only afford 11% of rental properties in Sydney, says the report. Image – Canva.
  • The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has released a report covering housing affordability for key workers
  • Only two LGAs in Sydney are affordable to key workers on moderate incomes
  • Golden Plains is the only Melbourne LGA affordable despite being over 80km from CBD

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has released a report that has shone a light on housing affordability for key workers in the nation’s two largest cities.

The Housing key workers: scoping challenges, aspirations, and policy responses for Australian cities report reveals that in Greater Sydney only two local government areas have a median house price affordable to key workers on moderate incomes. However, both of these suburbs are 150km from Sydney CBD.

In Melbourne, the only local government area affordable is Golden Plains which is over 80km from the CBD.

Lead Researcher Dr Catherine Gilbert said that between 2011 and 2016, the number of key workers in inner city regions fell with Wollongong, Newcastle and Geelong attracting key worker residents.

“There is significant movement away from inner-city areas among key workers aged 30–44 whose moves may be driven by factors like starting a family or a desire to buy a home rather than rent,’” said Dr Gilbert.

“This can lead to a shortage of more experienced workers in inner areas or to workers commuting long distances – which can exacerbate work-related stress and fatigue. Long distances between home and work can also limit the ability of workers to be ‘on call’ and respond quickly to emergency situations and spikes in service demand.”

Dr Catherine Gilbert, Lead Researcher AHURI

According to the report, 31,000 and 18,000 key workers in Sydney and Melbourne respectively live in overcrowded houses.  Additionally, 52,000 and 37,000 key workers live under housing stress in Sydney and Melbourne.

In terms of travel, key workers in Sydney and Melbourne are also more likely compared to the rest of the labour to commute for more than 30 kilometres, primarily by private car.

The research also found it’s not just purchasing itself that is unaffordable – only 2% of new rental properties in the Greater Sydney region were deemed affordable for key worker households, using the $790 weekly wage of a laundry worker.

For those earning $960 weekly – indicative of a commercial cleaner, delivery driver and entry-level firefighter – rents were affordable to just 5%.

Even those on $1150 – broadly speaking the wage of an early career enrolled nurse or childcare worker– could only afford about 11%.

“The research findings provide another impetus for governments to address housing affordability, as failure to do so could impact the safety and functioning of our cities into the future,” continued Dr Gilbert.

“Measures to assist key workers to access home ownership, policies and programs to increase the supply of secure, long-term rental housing and affordable housing tenures targeted at moderate income workers could all play a role in addressing the risk.”

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