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Super fund invests in affordable housing for health workers

Australia’s major cities are becoming increasingly expensive to live in, with many people priced out of living in city centres entirely.

Figures show that in Sydney less than one per cent of rental housing is deemed affordable housing and researchers say that Australia will need more than one million more social and affordable homes by 2036, with a current deficit of 651,300.

Victoria currently has an affordable housing shortfall of 42,700, according to figures from the UNSW city futures research centre, and this is impacting our essential workers.

In Melbourne, nine out of every 10 hospital workers live more than 4 kilometres from their work and face an average commute time of 47 minutes: 32 per cent longer than the state average. For health and social service workers in Melbourne, that commute time increases to 56 minutes: 38 per cent longer than the state average for their industry.

To address this issue, First State Super has announced the acquisition of 55 new key worker affordable rental units that are six kilometres from the CBD. The fund has so far committed nearly $200 million in NSW and Victoria, believed to be the largest investment in key worker affordable housing by any institutional investor in Australia.

The properties will be available to key workers such as healthcare, aged care, disability services, teachers, law enforcement, emergency services, childcare and associated industries to rent at 80 per cent of the market rate for the area and boast short commutes to several leading Melbourne hospitals and schools.

Robyn Bourke is a nurse at the Royal Children’s Hospital and has moved into the new affordable accommodation. Her new commute will take just 15 mins and she will save $100 a month in rent.

“When I first saw the apartment advertised online, I couldn’t believe it; they were specially available for key service workers. I’ll save around $100 a month, and it feels like a bit of a perk to be able to live in such beautiful but affordable accommodation. The area feels so safe, and I am really enjoying living here so far,” she said.

A bedroom at First State Super's affordable housing investment

Victorian Minister for Housing Richard Wynne said: “No one likes a long commute to and from work and I can only imagine that it’s even harder for our hospital staff and other care workers who work odd hours and long shifts.

"Projects like this which help workers in these key industries access safe, affordable housing closer to where they work go a long way towards easing that burden and I hope these tenants enjoy their new homes and shorter commute.”

The addition of these affordable homes can also make relocating easier for health professionals. Zarah Pollock recently moved to Melbourne from Cairns and is thankful for the proximity to her new job at the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre.

“I have recently relocated to Melbourne, and wanted to live somewhere convenient for work, but wasn’t sure what I would be able to afford in a close commuting distance to my new job as a nurse. It is really good to have affordable housing so close to work and it has made my move to Melbourne that little bit less stressful.”

First State Super chief executive Deanne Stewart said housing affordability posed unique challenges to the Fund’s members, many of whom were subject to inconsistent shift work hours.

“This is our first investment in key worker affordable housing in Victoria. We chose this development for its prime location – just six kilometres from the CBD and four kilometres from Parkville health precinct – and exceptional facilities. Through initiatives like this we hope to try to address some of the barriers our members and other key workers are facing to renting affordable housing near their work and families,” she said.

The new apartments in Moonee Ponds are in close proximity of major health facilities, including Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Children's Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Women’s Hospital, as well as 15 primary and secondary schools.

In addition to the new Moonee Ponds investment, First State Super has purchased 35 residential units across Sydney in Hurstville (15km from CBD), 17 residential units located in Waterloo (4km from CBD), 61 residential units in Epping (22km from CBD), and 35 residential units in Northmead (27km from CBD).

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