Call for NSW government to create more affordable homes for essential workers

The Australian, 29 November 2023

The NSW government has been pressured to implement targets for affordable housing near train and metro stations that would create more homes for essential workers to live near their workplaces.

Housing Now! – a pro-housing coalition of essential worker unions, business groups and universities – has found that increasing housing density by three to four times around key metro stations would generate enough revenue to ensure one in five homes could be marked as affordable housing for essential workers.

This would account for 15 to 20 per cent of the state’s affordable housing needs, the group said.

Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes said it was a “critical” initiative, especially for health workers who commuted lengthy distances to get to their place of work.

“Health workers travelling four hours a day because they can’t afford to live where they work is bad for workers and bad for patients,” he said.

“If we don’t act now, the consequences for our communities are huge.”

Committee for Sydney boss Eamon Waterford said more affordable housing initiatives were needed to ensure people from “all walks of life” could live in Sydney.

He said a “typical hospitality worker” would need to spend 79 per cent of their income to rent a typical apartment in the inner west suburb of Burwood, where the median rent for a two-bedroom unit is $750 a week.

“We have a shared responsibility to help deliver housing so people can afford to live in Sydney,” Mr Waterford said.

“This is especially the case for the teachers, health workers, police, hospitality workers and cleaners who keep our cities working, so they can find suitable housing near to where they work.”

The same group welcomed the government’s announcement on Tuesday that makes it harder to refuse the development of three-to-six-storey apartment blocks, terraces, townhouses and duplexes in areas near a city centre or within a 10-minute walk from a transport hub.

It’s estimated the reforms could deliver about 112,000 new homes across the Greater Sydney, Hunter, Central Coast and Illawarra regions or 30 per cent of the 377,000 new homes NSW needs to produce by 2029 under the Housing Accord.

The policy will be put on public exhibition until February, with the new rules to come in place by mid-2024.