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Property market boom driving nurses out of key city areas

An early career enrolled nurse who works in an inner-city Sydney hospital would have to settle down 150km away in Cessnock in the Hunter Valley just to find an affordable home to purchase.

That’s according to a new study carried out by researchers from the University of Sydney that found that nurses, police, teachers and other emergency and key services workers are feeling the squeeze of Sydney’s property market boom.

Co-author Professor Nicole Gurran said Sydney’s overstretched housing market is locking teachers, firefighters, nurses, police, ambulance drivers and paramedics out of home ownership. “Our key workers are increasingly being forced to outer metropolitan areas in search of an affordable place to live,” Gurran said.

The research, commissioned by Teachers Mutual Bank, Firefighters Mutual Bank and Police Bank, found that in the 10 years leading up to 2016, key areas in Sydney lost between 10 and 20 percent of teachers, nurses, police and emergency service workers to outer and regional areas, while areas such and the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Hunter Valley all had net gains.

Image: Teachers Mutual Bank.

Between 2003 and 2016, the median price of established homes in Sydney more than doubled from $400,000 to around $900,000, the report read. It added that higher rents have heightened the crisis by making a 20 per cent home loan deposit unattainable for many key workers.

The team said a single key worker eyeing a property in Sydney’s inner ring at the 2016 median price of just over $1 million would need 13 years to save for a deposit, marking a jump from the 8.4 years needed to save a 20 per cent deposit in 2006.

Affordability is somewhat greater for dual income key worker households, the study said, but is still poor for lower paid key workers and those with dependent children. "A couple including a registered nurse and a second income earner earning 50,000 p.a. with two dependents would only be able to afford a median priced home in three suburbs within the metropolitan region (all outer ring)."

Nurses and police also struggle to find affordable rental accommodation in Sydney’s inner and middle ring. Areas with the most affordable rental prices also tend to have the fewest private rental housing units, particularly smaller one bedroom rental properties.

Steve James, chief executive of Teachers Mutual Bank Limited, said for a key worker, finding somewhere affordable to live in reasonable proximity to their work is becoming impossible for those not already in the property market. “This study shows that without urgent and genuine intervention on the part of policy makers and other institutions, a growing number of key workers in NSW and Sydney may never be able to afford to own their own home within reasonable distance of Sydney,” James said.

Nursing Review spoke with study co-author Professor Peter Phibbs to find out and what can be done to ensure key workers aren’t pushed out of inner city areas into the future.

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