Essential Worker Housing

What is essential worker housing?

Housing is affordable for essential workers if housing costs are less than 30% of gross household income. Households spending more than 30% of income on housing costs are described as being in housing stress. Housing stress impacts on quality of life and the ability to afford other living costs.

Essential Worker Housing is designed for the needs of low to moderate income households and is priced so families are able to meet other basic living costs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education. Essential Worker Housing differs from Social Housing. Social Housing is a form of affordable housing that caters to households experiencing high levels of housing stress and social disadvantage.

As Council cannot directly influence affordability in the local housing market, or reasonably provide the required volume of affordable rental housing within the LGA, Council adopted a policy position to prioritise essential worker housing for moderate income households that are vital to the prosperity of the local economy. Council defines these families as key and essential worker households.

Who are Essential Workers

In Australia and internationally, workers whose wages are typically set at a national or state level, including teachers, nurses, police and fire and emergency personnel, are considered essential workers. This also includes support/ancillary workers in healthcare, education and emergency services; workers who support the labour force (e.g. child care and aged care workers and ICT support professionals and technicians); and low paid workers who are important for local economies, such as hospitality and retail workers.

Benefits of Essential Worker Housing

The primary benefit of essential worker housing programs is a social one, providing low to moderate income renters with an affordable, secure housing option, leading to improved health and employment outcomes, a greater sense of safety, independence and social connectedness.

An increased supply of essential worker housing also provides opportunities for local young people to continue to live and work in their community.

Essential worker housing also delivers significant benefits to the local economy through diversification of the labour market, increased job retention and increased productivity.

How can we provide Essential Worker housing?

Willoughby City Council was one of the first metropolitan Councils to recognise the need for more Essential Worker Housing.

Council recognises Essential Worker Housing as a vital element of social and economic infrastructure and has committed to increase the supply of affordable rental housing through affordable housing targets and policy.

We do this by requiring the dedication to Council of complete dwellings or their cash equivalent equalling 4% of the accountable total floor space of new mullti-unit dwellings in identified zones within the Willoughby local government area.

These Essential Worker assets are then strategically managed to optimise social outcomes and financial sustainability.

Affordable housing partnership

Willoughby City Council currently has 37 essential worker housing units (2022) that are managed by Evolve Housing to provide affordable housing to essential workers in our community. Evolve Housing is an award-winning, Tier-1 nationally registered community housing provider. Evolve Housing provide housing solutions to eligible people on very low to moderate incomes who are unable to access appropriate housing in the private market. Current vacancies and information on the application process can be found on the Evolve Housing website

New projects and initiatives

Willoughby City Council is currently undertaking planning for the following essential worker housing project:

1. Abbott Road Essential Worker Housing Project

More information to come soon. 

Contact person

Stuart Gibb, Community Development Team Leader

02 9777 7505

Stuart.Gibb@willoughby.nsw.gov.au