Third.i project at Crows Nest to allocate $130m in affordable housing for health workers

Sydney property developer Third.i has teamed up with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Property Investors to develop a multibillion-dollar transport-oriented mixed-use project at Crows Nest, with plans to allocate a significant proportion of apartments to low-cost housing for health workers including those at the nearby Royal North Shore Hospital.

The Hume Place development, proposed to rise above the planned Crows Nest Metro station, will comprise two towers with one previously planned for commercial and retail tenancies and the second for apartments with ground-floor retail.

However, due to softening demand for office space and through a partnership with community housing provider Evolve Housing, the developers have moved to convert the first-stage commercial tower into a mixed-use residential project that will earmark 15 per cent of apartments in perpetuity for nurses, midwives, health professional and services staff working at the hospital.

The move, described by the developers as an industry first, has been welcomed by health employee groups after a survey commissioned by the partners revealed that local health workers and services staff were forced to travel 30 to 50km to work. The survey also found that Royal North Shore Hospital workers living alone are paying up to 58 per cent of their pay for a studio apartment in the local area.

While the end value of Hume Place is not yet known, the project is planned to deliver 400 apartments across both stages with more than 130 of them, worth about $130 million, set aside for health workers in perpetuity.

The project has received the backing of the Health Services Union and the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association who have voiced their concerns about the lack of inner-city housing for essential workers in the health industry.

“We have a housing crisis that is becoming a health crisis,” says Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes.

“Essential health workers are already making the tough decision to leave the sector in search of work closer to home. A hospital cleaner, a physiotherapist, a wardsperson, these workers shouldn’t have to travel for hours each day, coming to work already exhausted.

“We need solutions that mean these workers can afford to live in the communities they serve.”

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association general secretary Shaye Candish has welcomed the Third.i and Evolve partnership that she hopes will alleviate the stress that lack of affordable housing is causing many healthcare workers in the area.

Candish says a recent survey showed that a lack of affordable housing was a key concern for 76 of the association’s members and that over half indicated they were insecure in their current accommodation or didn’t have a steady place to live.

“Proximity to work is particularly relevant because of nurses and midwives’ work patterns, including shift work,” she says.

Third.i director and co-founder Robert Huxley says Hume Place is aiming to help address a ‘chronic shortage’ of quality, affordable housing on Sydney’s lower north shore.

“We want to give frontline healthcare workers, like nurses, midwives, paramedics, and health professional and services staff, the chance to finally find quality, affordable housing options, close to Royal North Shore Hospital, The Mater Hospital and other local health facilities,” says Huxley.

“The strategic location of the development, right above the Crows Nest Metro, will allow health care workers to easily access Royal North Shore Hospital, RPA, Sydney and St Vincent’s Hospitals, within just a few minutes.

“Our proposed amended design aligns with the Minns Government’s drive to get more housing in connected, urban areas around stations and transport hubs, allowing key workers to live close to their work.”

Hume Place is the fifth project that Third.i has undertaken in partnership with Phoenix Property Investors with a key focus on Sydney’s north shore. The partners are currently close to completing their latest development, Balfour Place, a luxury mixed-used project at Lindfield.

The revised Hume Place project is still subject to state government approval but Huxley says the ‘in kind and in perpetuity’ agreement with Evolve is a new step for the property industry that could unlock up to 500 additional affordable residences in the Sydney metropolitan area.

“Should our amendment concept proposal be approved, we’ll hand-over title of the affordable tower to Evolve, who can use that unencumbered asset to finance a new pipeline of affordable housing right across their sites in NSW, so there will be a significant flow-on effect from this project in terms of addressing to the crisis in supply that the market is experiencing,” Huxley says.

The proposed development will be officially launched to the market on 15 October.

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