The conversation

The purpose of the engagement was to seek feedback from the community and our industry partners on a draft key worker housing definition.

In Melbourne, decades of under-investment in affordable housing has led to a severe shortage of affordable homes for people on very low to moderate incomes. One group of people whose housing needs are not being met are our ‘key workers’.

Key workers are people who provide an essential service to the community. Some examples include cleaners, childcare workers, and chefs.

The first step in facilitating more affordable housing for key workers is to prepare a draft definition of ‘key worker housing’ for use in implementation.

On 5 September 2023, the Future Melbourne Committee endorsed the draft key worker housing definition, and requested an additional engagement process be completed.

Gathering insights

The first round of engagement aimed to better understand who the key workers are in our city and how we can support more people on very low to moderate incomes to live in the City of Melbourne.

The research was undertaken through an online survey that was sent to local workers and businesses. This process helped to inform our draft definition.

This second round of engagement on the draft definition was undertaken through an online survey that was open from 16 October to 10 December 2023.

The survey was hosted on the City of Melbourne’s engagement platform and was publicly accessible. A wide range of industry partners were invited to participate through direct emails. The online survey was also promoted through housing related forums for local and state government partners.

A roundtable forum was also hosted with State Government partners to present outcomes from the online surveys, to seek feedback on the draft definition and to workshop ideas for implementation.

  • Surveys

    Thirty six people completed the online survey. Most of the respondents work in the Development Sector (28 per cent), followed by the Community Housing Sector (19 per cent) and Local Government (17 per cent).

    A further 17 respondents contributed to the survey at a State Government roundtable on 14 February 2024.

  • Support for the definition

    Sixty four per cent of respondents to the online survey were ‘supportive’ or ‘very supportive’ of the draft key worker housing definition.

    These respondents were most likely to work in the Local Government (6 respondents), followed by the Community Housing Sector (5 respondents) and the Development Sector (5 respondents).

  • Opposed the definition

    Twenty five per cent of respondents to the online survey were ‘opposed’ or ‘very opposed’ to the draft key worker housing definition.

    These respondents were most likely to work in the Development Sector (3 respondents) followed by Researchers (2 respondents).

  • Key issues

    Seventeen key issues were identified though analysis of the survey responses.

    Issues most referenced were ‘Registered Housing Agency involvement’ (9 responses), ‘Low-income household needs’ (8 responses), and ‘Income ranges’ (7 responses).

What we heard

  • Surveys

    The State Government roundtable explored three key issues that were commonly raised through the online survey submissions:

    1. Registered Housing Agency Involvement
    2. Income ranges
    3. A list of eligible occupations

    Feedback from the State Government roundtable was mostly supportive, with some minor changes recommended and opportunities for further collaboration identified.

  • Support for the definition

    “It makes it clear that Affordable Housing for workers is essential urban infrastructure and cities cannot function effectively without it”.

    “Clarifying a definition of key workers ... would be helpful in matching appropriate housing products to the cohorts who need them most”.

    “The definition captures the breadth of key workers effectively while also excluding those who have vital roles but are remunerated well enough”.

  • Opposed the definition

    “The number of dwellings will always be less than the number of eligible workers, so it creates a lottery whereby a lucky few get higher remuneration than their peers”.

    The exclusive reference to rental housing should be removed, to enable a range of housing tenures to fit within the definition.

    It’s important but not at the expense of social, community, or public housing and I am concerned that all the talk of key workers may dilute the message”.

  • Key issues

    “Only aspect that should be reconsidered is the need for the properties to be allocated and managed by RHAs, there are many other CSOs and charities that could contribute to affordable housing supply”.

    “ unintended consequence could be that a financial incentive is created that means registered housing agencies target moderate income tenants as opposed to low-income tenants.”

    [The draft definition] “is too constrictive in terms of income levels and tenures”.


Feedback collected through the online survey has demonstrated that there is an existing policy gap in the definition of Key Worker Housing.

The majority of respondents were supportive of the draft definition. However, some respondents requested changes and we will consider these in finalising the definition.

The draft definition builds on existing legislative definitions, and some respondents did not appear to be familiar with these. Better explanation of the relationship between the proposed definition and existing planning processes could assist in this understanding. Clarification of matters such as income ranges, rental affordability and oversight of tenancies will be included in the final reporting process to Council.

Our next step is to report back to Council on the consultation outcomes and any changes to the draft definition.

Defining key worker housing