Plan to build 400 apartments in Sydney for frontline workers

  • Published June 16, 2024

The Daily Telegraph, 16 June 2024

With essential workers struggling to live in Sydney amid soaring housing prices, the Minns government will build apartment towers to offer cheap rentals to cops, fireys, teachers and health workers.

Police officers, fireys, teachers, nurses and paramedics will be given the keys to the city, with the state budget to fund hundreds of build-to-rent properties at four Sydney sites to be offered exclusively to essential workers.

Designed to keep Sydney functioning, as many as 400 apartments will be offered to frontline workers — including cleaners and allied health care workers — at a cheaper rent to the market, in areas closer to the city, their jobs and services.

The apartment tower complexes are expected to be constructed on sites found in the ongoing cross-government “land audit”, which is scouring the city for surplus public land that can be developed for housing.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal Treasurer Daniel Mookhey — who has declared housing a key theme of next week’s Budget — has set aside $450 million for the project, with the units to be built over the next three years.

Landcom will be responsible for the land acquisition and construction, with the government anticipating eligible workers will be able to move into their new homes in 2027.

The government will retain ownership of the housing, with rental income to help fund a potential future additional expansion of the key worker housing program.

It will be the first government build-to-rent scheme in Sydney, with similar schemes operating on the north and south coasts.


■ $450 million for 400 “build-to-rent” apartments at four Sydney sites for essential workers
■ Foreign purchaser duty surcharge and foreign owner land tax surcharge to rise one per cent
■ Establishment of a NSW Rental Taskforce to crack down on dodgy agents and owners

■ A $139.5 million boost to modernise the bus fleet and create more reliable services
■ More than $1 billion to upgrade and create roads around Western Sydney Airport
■ More than $440 million to extend the life of the 55 Tangara trains for another 12 years
■ Abolition of 300 transport executive roles with jobs to also go within the NSW Public Service Commission

■ A $3.6 billion investment in Western Sydney school infrastructure, including new public primary and high schools in Box Hill.
■ $1.4 billion for new and upgraded regional schools

■ Hospitals and health facilities to be upgraded with $3.4 billion

■ Eraring Power Station to be extended for two years.
■ Building Commission NSW to be allocated $35 million annual budget.
■ Leichhardt Oval to get $10 million
■ Injection of $253.7 million to pay for planners and technology to speed up DA approvals
■ Riverside Theatre to be redeveloped as part of a $40 million plan to turn it into a “Broadway-style” theatre
With the cost of the average home in Sydney and rents soaring, essential workers are being pushed further away from their jobs in the city, with some NSW nurses now relocating to Queensland, lured by cheaper housing and a bonus of as much as $50,000.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said it was not good enough that essential workers were unable to live close to where they work.

“NSW would grind to a halt without nurses, paramedics, teachers, police officers and firefighters, but many can’t afford a place to live in Sydney, close to where they work.

“This has to change,” he said.

“We’re pulling every lever we have to tackle the housing crisis, and one of the best ways to make rentals more affordable is to build more homes.”

Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said the housing was able to be funded by the government as a result of the state’s debt being cut.

“In the grip of a housing crisis, this is a must-have policy,” he said.

Paramedic Michael Jobson, 36, drives more than two hours each day from the Central Coast to his ambulance station in Artarmon and back.

Hitting the highway after a 12-hour night shift was particularly brutal, but rental apartments closer to his workplace had just been too ­expensive, he said.

Mr Jobson said he definitely would be interested in living in an apartment closer to work so long as it was “fit for purpose” and able to accommodate his cat.

“Apartments near my work are not affordable and there is not really an option to sleep at work,” he said.

Health Services Union (HSU) NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said the rental crisis was “the eye of the cost of living storm”.

“It’s very reassuring to see the Treasurer taking real action to provide health workers with homes they can actually afford,” he said.


Treasurer Daniel Mookhey has zero guilt cutting the red ribbons of projects that Labor inherited from the former Coalition government.

His reason for being able to sleep at night amid the howls of protest from former members of the Coalition ministry who claim they did the hard yards is that he claims many of the projects were “off the rails” when Labor came to power.

The Sydenham to Bankstown conversion. Parramatta Light Rail stage two. All projects Labor “rescued”, Mookhey says.

“In my first budget, we had to find a billion dollars to be able to get the city southwest metro back on track,” he says.

“The Sydenham to Bankstown conversion was in a disastrous state before the government came to power. Almost to the point where it was going to be cancelled, although they didn’t have the courage or honesty to do it before the election.

“The record that we inherited, the projects themselves were off the rails. Parramatta Light Rail stage two.

“That’s a project that they promised in 17 separate press releases … and failed to budget for it whatsoever. That project is no longer a pipe dream under Labor. It’s in the pipeline.”

Coalition figures blame the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) for running interference on the Sydenham to Bankstown project before standing down once Labor was elected.

Mookhey will hand down his second budget on Tuesday – one that he admits some people will find “boring”.

There will also not be a “miracle” surplus.

He blames the latest GST carve-up for robbing the state of $11.9bn in expected revenue over four years. His political rivals say it’s spin, pointing to the “black hole” created by Labor busting the public sector wages cap, together with no asset recycling.

Asked why he wouldn’t consider revenue-raising measures such as increasing land tax, Mookhey says he was always looking to ensure taxes were “fit for purpose”.

However, there would be no rises in land or payroll increases in land tax or “payroll taxes” this budget, especially during a time of economic crisis.

“You’ve got to calibrate all these things to suit the conditions in which you are in,” he said.

However, there will be an adjustment to foreign investor surcharges, a move Mookhey says will free up more homes for NSW residents.

As for what is keeping the Treasurer up at night – apart from a vomiting five-year-old – it is “inflation”.

“There’s no point in me giving money away,” he said.

“All that happens is the RBA takes it away in interest rates.”

If there is a theme in Mookhey’s no-frills budget, it will be housing. The government has yet to release its long-awaited land audit, which is looking for government-owned sites able to be developed for housing.


The jobs of almost 300 firefighters will be “saved”, with the Minns government tipping in almost $190 million towards their salaries after it was discovered the money was to run out.

The salary shortfall was uncovered during an internal review of Fire and Rescue NSW, which found the former Coa­lition government did not budget for the salaries of one in 12 permanent firefighters beyond June 30.

At Oran Park station in Sydney’s southwest all 32 firefighters were found not to have been funded beyond the end of this financial year.

The salary funding top-up is in addition to $15.4 million to be allocated in next week’s budget to build a new 24-hour fire station at Badgerys Creek equipped with three appliances.

The strategically located ­facility will provide emergency services coverage across southwest Sydney and complement the soon-to-be-completed Busby station.

Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib accused the former government of putting firefighter salaries “on a credit card”.

“These firefighters are needed on the frontline and are on the job keeping the community safe, but the former government forced Fire and Rescue NSW to put their salaries on the credit card and never paid the bill,” he said.

“By prioritising investment in firefighters and new stations we will be better prepared for emergencies and able to confront the evolving challenges posed by natural disasters.”