The housing affordability crisis has pushed nurses, teachers and emergency workers out of Sydney, forcing them to commute potentially hours each day, according to a new report.
Almost 20 per cent of Sydney’s essential workers moved to outer and regional areas between 2006 and 2016, according to the Key Worker Housing Affordability Report, released by Sydney University on Monday.
“For a key worker, finding somewhere affordable to live in reasonable proximity to their work is becoming impossible,” said Steve James, CEO of Teachers Mutual Bank, which commissioned the study.
Parramatta in Sydney’s west experienced the biggest loss of key workers, with a 21.4 per cent decline over 10 years. The eastern suburbs were stripped of 15.2 per cent of its key workers, followed by the inner south west (14.6 per cent), Ryde (14.2 per cent), and the inner west (11.3 per cent).
At the same time, the number of key workers in the Southern Highlands increased by 17 per cent, 13.6 per cent in the Hunter Valley, and 10.5 per cent in the Illawarra.
It’s forcing the essential workers to commute long hours.
The report revealed 12 per cent of police officers working in Sydney’s CBD and inner south were commuting between 50km and 100km to work.
More than three-quarters of key workers drove to work in 2016, compared with just 43 per cent of the general population. Shift work and long distances to travel meant essential workers were less likely to take public transport, the report said.
“Longer commute times, especially in private vehicles, lead to significantly higher financial costs and serious social consequences for key workers and their families, disrupting work-life balance and impacting their lifestyle,” Mr James said.
“Critically, lengthy commute times are also associated with lower rates of workforce participation.”
According to the report, an entry-level nurse earning about $57,000 a year would only be able to afford a home about 150km away at Cessnock in the Hunter region.
Mr James said any cooling off in Sydney’s housing market has not trickled down to a price range that key workers can afford.
“It would have to be the Ice Age for any such cooling to fit their salary and household budget,” he said in a statement.
“For teachers who are earning under six-figure incomes, a 10 per cent deposit on a $1.5 million house is not feasible.
“They still can’t afford to live within 100km of where they work.”
A single key worker eyeing a $1 million property in Sydney in 2016 would need 13 years to save a deposit, compared with 8.4 years in 2006.
The report recommended urgent solutions to ensure Sydney didn’t lose more of its key workers, including a key worker housing target.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said Premier Gladys Berejiklian needed to make good on her promise to fix housing affordability.
“It’s proven to be nothing more than a cruel taunt for police, teachers and nurses,” Mr Foley told The New Daily in a statement on Monday.
“Workers tell me that they would love to live among the communities they serve, which is not an unreasonable expectation. However with Sydney property prices on par with New York and Hong Kong, they have Buckley’s chance of doing so.”
Mr Foley said a Labor government would require one-quarter of dwellings constructed on government-owned land to be designated as affordable housing.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the city needed the state government to stop selling off social housing and invest in social and affordable housing.
“Who will work in emergency wards? Keep our neighbourhoods safe? Clean our streets? Teach our children?” she wrote on Twitter.
Planning Minister Anthony Roberts did not respond to a request for comment.