Addressing Key Worker Housing Affordability: A Critical Challenge for Councils

⚡️ Highlights:

1. Key workers in Australia spend a large portion of their income on housing costs, with the increasing rental costs pricing them out of their communities. This particularly affects workers in aged care, hospitality, freight packing, and postal services.

2. Housing affordability in Regional Victoria is worsening due to increased demand, shifts in employment dynamics, and migration from Greater Capital Cities. Median house prices in some parts of Regional Victoria have reached levels similar to Greater Melbourne.

3. Regional Development Victoria has created the “Regional Worker Accommodation Fund” to provide grants for the provision of new housing and accommodation for struggling key workers and their families in regional communities.

4. Key workers are employees in essential services that require them to be physically present at a work site. Occupations include waiters, chefs, cleaners, nurses, doctors, truck drivers, electricians, and checkout operators.

5. Local government authorities can address housing unaffordability for key workers by challenging assumptions about higher-density developments, collaborating with state governments, establishing affordable housing as essential infrastructure, exploring key worker housing programs, and supporting national initiatives to improve housing affordability.

Exploring Solutions to Improve Housing Access for Essential Workers

Housing affordability remains a pressing issue across Australia, particularly for key workers who are essential to community functioning and wellbeing. A recent analysis by Nenad, a demographic consultant, focuses on the escalating housing costs in Regional Victoria and their impact on the ability to attract and house key workers in the region.

The National Problem of Key Worker Housing Affordability

The “Priced Out” report published by Everybody’s Home in April 2023 highlights that key workers in Australia, including those in aged care, hospitality, freight packing, and postal services, are spending two-thirds of their income on housing. This situation is exacerbated by increasing rental costs, pricing them out of their communities.

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Regional Victoria Case Study: A Microcosm of a Wider Issue

In Regional Victoria, housing affordability is worsening due to increased demand, shifts in employment dynamics, and the impact of COVID-19. The migration from Greater Capital Cities to regional areas has contributed to this, raising median house prices to near-Greater Melbourne levels in some parts.

Councils’ Role in Improving Housing Affordability

Local government authorities can play a pivotal role in addressing housing unaffordability for key workers. This includes challenging assumptions about higher-density developments, collaborating with state governments on land release and zoning, and recognizing affordable housing as essential infrastructure. Councils can also coordinate with state and federal authorities, explore key worker housing programs, and support national initiatives aimed at improving housing affordability.

Supporting Councils in Their Efforts

Councils seeking to address key worker housing affordability can benefit from various support mechanisms, including grants, partnerships, and data analysis tools. Consulting services like the “Key Worker Housing Affordability report” can help quantify key workers in a region, identify occupations under housing stress, and understand housing affordability trends.


Improving key worker housing affordability is a complex challenge that requires a multifaceted approach. Councils, in collaboration with state and federal governments, can implement strategies and programs to ensure that key workers have access to affordable housing. This effort is crucial for maintaining the social and economic fabric of communities across Australia.

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