NSW Labor unveils $200 million plan to boost regional housing for health workers in ‘must-have’ fix for crisis

Alex Mitchell
AAP
The NSW government is to buy, build or refurbish housing to offer health workers in regional areas.
The NSW government is to buy, build or refurbish housing to offer health workers in regional areas. Credit: Stuart Walmsley/AAP

A “must have” funding boost for essential worker accommodation will headline the NSW budget, including a pledge to help key medical staff ease housing pressures in regional areas.

Backing up an earlier announcement that $450 million will be spent to house nurses, paramedics, teachers and others, the government announced on Monday that $200 million would be set aside to accommodate health workers in the regions.

Unveiled on budget eve, the initiative will target a 500-worker boost for under-pressure areas.

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The government plans to buy 120 dwellings, including motels and other suitable properties, while also looking at building housing and refurbishing old sites.

Locations flagged for the housing include Lismore, Lake Cargelligo, Tweed Heads and the Eurobodalla.

Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said health investments must be matched with housing to ensure staffing requirements could be met.

“The health minister has already made it clear when it comes to, for example, the new hospital in Rouse Hill we are building, we want to make sure we do have accommodation on that campus for healthcare workers,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“That used to be something that had happened as a matter of course, it hasn’t happened recently ... we would like to get back to that practice.”

Mr Mookhey is expected to deliver a no-frills budget, his second since Labor came to power in March 2023.

A major revision of the annual GST carve-up will help push the budget into deficit in 2024/25 after a surplus was initially forecast for the financial year.

Housing will be one of the most closely watched areas of spending as a dire shortage of properties drives up rents and already unaffordable purchase prices.

The previously announced $450 million spend on 400 extra apartments for essential workers would largely focus on inner-city Sydney areas, the treasurer said.

NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey (file image)
NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey says essential workers have been driven out of areas by ‘prohibitive’ rents. Credit: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

Trimming debt and getting the state interest bill down made the vital spending possible, he added.

“Rents are really prohibitive and it’s driving out our central workers from many of the hospitals and police stations or schools in which they work,” Mr Mookhey said.

“This is a must-have investment in the state’s regional and rural health workforce this additional investment will build on the government’s commitment to recruit and retain health workers in regional and remote parts of the state.”

Consultation with local health districts, paramedics and housing bodies would shape the regional housing investment, with accommodation set to be delivered over the next four years.

“Based on early mapping and surveying of key worker accommodation requirements, we know that it is ‘not a one-size-fits-all’ approach,” Health Minister Ryan Park said.

“There will be a variety of solutions for each selected location.

“This is about tailoring solutions to the needs of the specific communities.”

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