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Unique housing options accommodate nurses amid housing crisis

calender April, 14 2023

A NSW aged care home hopes to attract nurses to their facility amid the country’s chronic housing crisis by offering them unique accommodation options for a rent-free period.

The Raleigh-Urunga Masonic Village, on the outskirts of Bellingen on the State’s Mid North Coast, has brought in tiny homes and converted shipping containers for nurses who cannot find rentals in the area to live in.

The unique housing solution was implemented to help accommodate nurses who have travelled from overseas, do not have their driver’s licenses or cannot find housing close by due to tough competition in the real estate market.

The homes are suited to accommodate one nurse and is offered for a three-month rent free period.

This follows the Federal Government’s decision to extend the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme to Pacific Islanders wanting to work in the Australian aged care sector to fill workforce and skills gaps.

Owner of the Raleigh-Urunga Masonic Village, the Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution (RFBI), has also extended this housing option to its West Wyalong Masonic Village and is considering rolling it out to their other facilities.

“As with the whole aged care sector, RFBI is struggling to find staff locally so [it has] a number of projects underway to bring qualified staff in from overseas,” said Alyson Pearce, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer at RFBI.

“[There is] a problem with housing in some of our regional areas where limited rental properties are available.

“This solution is currently in place where there are have been no alternative housing options available… As most of our overseas staff don’t drive it’s important that they can travel to and from their homes safely and easily.”

The repurposed shipping container houses are offered to one nurse for about three months and are fitted with a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

The village has also brought in two tiny homes, or small demountable units, to house one nurse each from Nepal.

Ms Pearce said that RFBI rent and buy local properties to provide homes for staff – even offering them units in their retirement villages to live in to help fill crucial job vacancies.

The converted shipping containers are described by Ms Pearce as “cosy, comfortable homes [that] provide an easily accessible home for our staff” and that feedback from staff has been “very positive” thus far.

Mahee Wijewardhana from Sri Lanka is staying in one of the shipping container homes and told ABC it had taken some getting used to.

“It’s a new experience; this is the first time staying in a small home alone,” she said.

“[I’m] nice and comfortable.”

Australia’s housing crisis is no secret, but the Mid North Coast in particular has seen a massive spike in population over the last few years.

Would you be willing to work for an organisation if they offered alternative housing options? Tell us in the comments.

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