Teachers in New South Wales are facing a housing crisis that may force them out of their jobs or their homes. A new study has found that more than 90 per cent of teaching positions in the state are located in areas where housing is unaffordable on a teacher’s salary.
The study, published recently in the Australian Educational Researcher, analysed quarterly house sales and rental reports and found that housing is considered unaffordable if a person spends more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs. This means that many teachers are in housing stress and may not have enough money left to cover other essentials.
The situation is particularly dire for new teachers. There are 675 schools – nearly 23,000 full-time teaching positions – where the median rent for a one-bedroom place is unaffordable on a graduate teacher’s salary. The study shows the last time a first-year teacher salary could comfortably afford the rent for a one-bedroom dwelling was around a decade ago.
But affordability isn’t just an issue for early career teachers. For experienced educators at the top of the pay scale, 70 schools – around 2000 full-time roles – are in an LGA where a single-bedroom dwelling is also unaffordable.
Sarah Jones, a primary school teacher with 10 years of experience, says she can’t afford to live where she works. “I’m paying $600 a week for a two-bedroom unit in Sydney’s inner west. That’s more than half of my take-home pay,” she says. “I love my job, but I don’t know how long I can keep doing this. I’m thinking about moving to another area or even another state where it’s cheaper to live.”
Home ownership is also out of reach for teachers on a single income, with median prices in some areas more than ten times the average teacher salary. Sydney is particularly cost-prohibitive, with the most unaffordable LGAs for teachers being Bayside, Canada Bay, Sydney, and Waverley.
Professor Scott Eacott, the author of the study and Deputy Director of the Gonski Institute for Education at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture, says this housing crisis may worsen the teacher shortage problem that is already affecting many schools.
“Fundamentally, there’s been an increasing gap between salary and the costs of housing that the standard pay rise isn’t covering, and it’s pushing teachers further away from their workplaces or out of the profession entirely,” he says.
He adds that the issue is not just limited to teachers, but all essential workers who are increasingly finding it difficult to find affordable places to live within a reasonable distance of their workplace.
“We’ll find it hard to attract new teachers when even a modest one-bedroom apartment is unaffordable,” he says. “But also, we’ll lose many experienced teachers simply because they can’t afford to live close to where they work.”
He suggests that increasing teacher salaries and providing housing subsidies may help alleviate some of the pressure and ensure that teachers can continue to serve their communities.