By Gavin Coote and Melinda James
There are calls for more subsidised housing for Sydney's essential workers after a report found the city was losing workers because of the housing affordability crisis.
The Key Worker Housing Affordability study by the University of Sydney found Australia's largest city had lost close to 20 per cent of its key workers — including emergency workers, teachers and nurses — between 2006 and 2016.
The study found it took an average 13 years for a key worker to save for a home deposit in inner Sydney.
The closest centre considered affordable for an entry-level nurse was Cessnock, more than 150 kilometres from Sydney in the Hunter region.
The areas with the biggest influx of essential workers due to the mass exodus were the Hunter Valley, Illawarra and Southern Highlands.
Police Bank, which co-commissioned the research, said young nurses were travelling from Cessnock to Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital, and many police officers commuted to Parramatta from Wollongong.
Commuting takes its toll on workers
Police Bank chief executive Tony Taylor said the long commute was taking on a toll on workers' personal lives.
5 housing affordability ideas
"That's got some real implications in terms of family stress and pressures outside the significant pressures of being a policeman," Mr Taylor said.
"These are the people who educate us, keep us healthy and protect us, so having them 100 per cent in the activity at the start of the shift is important.
"It plays out more to us in the trip home, because clearly after a long day, another hour and a half in the car on the way home and impact it could have on the greater family outcomes is a concern to us."
Police Association of NSW president Scott Weber said the growing commuting distances had potentially serious knock-on effects for Sydney.
"If there's a major incident on one of our highways, or lord forbid another terrorism incident in Sydney and the whole transport system shuts down, then all our key essential workers can't get to the hospitals, to the schools, and to the police stations to actually deal with that incident," Mr Weber said.