The conversation

Through our Council Plan, the City of Melbourne is committed to facilitating more affordable housing for key workers. We have reaffirmed this in our Affordable Housing Strategy and are developing policy that aims to secure affordable rental housing for key workers.

Key workers are generally defined as people who provide an essential service to the community. They are unable to work from home and often work outside of traditional business hours. Some examples of key worker occupations are cleaners, childcare workers, and chefs.

To inform this work, we wanted to better understand who the key workers are in our city and how we can support more people on low to moderate incomes to live in the City of Melbourne.

This research was undertaken through an online survey that was sent to local workers and businesses.

Gathering insights

There was one phase of engagement, with the survey available from 24 May to 14 June, 2023. The online survey was hosted on the Participate Melbourne website and distributed to local businesses across a range of industries.

Intercept surveys were undertaken across our city, while participants were also able to contact the City of Melbourne for more detail or to discuss the project.

What we heard

  • Online survey

    A total of 304 local workers responded to the online survey.

  • Occupation and income

    94 of respondents were classified as 'key workers' based on their occupation and income level.

  • Age

    Key workers who responded to the survey were generally younger, with 61 percent of respondents aged under 35.

  • Living

    Key workers were more likely to rent their home, with 63 percent of respondents renting.

  • Work hours

    Key workers often worked outside of traditional business hours, 54 percent of respondents were shift workers compared to just 8 percent of other workers.

  • Industry

    31 percent of key worker respondents were employed in the Healthcare industry, followed by 18 percent in Accommodation and Food, and 16 percent in Education.

  • Key worker respondents were more likely to earn lower incomes when compared to other respondents
  • There was a significant overrepresentation of key worker households in lower income groups from ‘Under $25,000’ per year through to ‘$115,999’ per year
  • Key worker respondents were more likely to travel by motor vehicle (36 percent) compared to other workers (16 percent)
  • Key workers were less likely to commute by public and active transport modes and spent more days per week commuting as they generally cannot work from home
  • Key worker households were more likely to be in ‘housing stress’ (spending more than 30 percent of their gross household income on housing)
  • Key workers spent 48 percent of their income on housing compared to 28 percent for other workers
  • Key worker households were generally willing to move to the City of Melbourne, if they could access affordable rental housing.


The research helped to inform our draft definition of key worker housing.

It confirmed that local workers earning low to moderate incomes are commuting long distances to work, and are experiencing ‘housing stress’.

The research indicated that there is demand for affordable key worker housing from local workers. 64% of surveyed local workers are interested in moving to the City of Melbourne.

The feedback received through this engagement process has informed the development of a Key Worker Housing definition. Thank you to all who contributed their insights and ideas into this process.

Homes Melbourne will be undertaking additional engagement on the draft key worker housing definition in the coming weeks, and we encourage you to stay involved in the project.

Defining key worker housing