Sydney, Melbourne lose key workers due to worsening home affordability

By Gerv Tacadena

New report sheds light on the sacrifices these workers make just to save for a home deposit

Even amid the housing downturn, Sydney and Melbourne essential workers —like nurses, ambulance officers, teachers, and firefighters — are struggling to break into the housing market as affordability worsens, leaving them with no choice but to consider ditching the cities or changing their careers.

A PwC Australia report commissioned by Genworth Mortgage Insurance Australia and Teachers Mutual Bank found that the two state capitals are facing a shortage of essential officers. In fact, one in four of these workers is actually considering either relocating away from the cities or changing careers to better help them manage their finances. Furthermore, roughly 79% of key workers believe that homeownership is not achievable given their current standing.

"We are potentially looking at a drain of key workers from Australia’s two largest cities, when demand for their services is growing and at a time when 57% of the general public believe a shortage already exists," Teachers Mutual Bank CEO Steve James said.

Genworth managing director and CEO Georgette Nicholas said the "on-call" nature of their jobs restricts their access to homes in more affordable, outer suburbs. The problem is, key workers are facing significant barriers in saving up a 20% deposit for a home.

"Given that it takes a single-income key worker over 12 years in Sydney and more than nine years in Melbourne to save a 20% deposit, it’s clear something needs to be done to help them secure a home sooner," he said.

According to the report, many workers are making substantial personal sacrifices in order to achieve homeownership: 47% said they are working overtime – nearly twice as much as the members of the general population; 23% are moving in with family or friends to save a deposit; 29% are willing to delay starting a family.

The report said the federal and state governments should be able to come up with policy options that can assist these essential workers in achieving their homeownership goals while at the same time help Sydney and Melbourne fight the shortgage.

"We need to discuss and identify a range of solutions that help support key workers buy a home. The viability of essential education, health and emergency services in our two biggest cities could depend on it," Nicholas said.

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