BY OLIVIA DILLON 

According to new research, essential care and service workers across regional NSW are facing a rental affordability crisis. 

Everybody’s Home, the national campaign against homelessness, cross-referenced SQM rent data with the basic hourly wage of workers in disability support, aged care, childcare, hospitality and supermarkets to calculate the percentage of essential workers’ wages which are being contributed to rent in regional NSW. 

The analysis has revealed the Hunter as one of the 78 geographic regions in the country where an essential care or service worker would need to spend between one-third and two-thirds of their normal working week’s wages, to rent an apartment. 

Close analysis of the data shows in fact, COVID-essential workers in the Hunter region must work half the week for 19 hours simply to cover the cost of rent. 

Everybody’s Home national spokesperson, Kate Colvin, says the current housing system is failing normal Australians. 

“The pandemic has reminded us how critically important our carers and service workers are. Yet these pandemic heroes are being badly let down by the housing system and are often priced out of the communities they serve,” she said. 

“Every community needs it’s childcare workforce, every community wants lots of people working in the supermarket and needs people in aged care. So it’s important that there’s housing that people can afford when they’re working in these important jobs.” 

Ms Colvin said the warping of the rental markets in regional areas is largely due to people with large incomes moving away from the city. This has meant essential workers are being increasingly priced-out of the coastal and bush communities which they could once afford. 

She said in order to prioritise these workers, both state and federal government must invest in social and affordable housing. This would relieve the pressure on the rental market and give Australians on lower incomes more options. 

“These are the people who got us through the pandemic. We must find a way to let them live close to their work.”