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Atlassian’s move to remote work is Sydney’s wake up call

Atlassian founders Scott Farquhar and Michael Cannon-Brookes

Atlassian’s signal it’s moving to more remote work to avoid Sydney’s unaffordable housing is a wakeup call that’s been long coming and has now arrived.

A study released on Thursday by UNSW’s City Futures Research Centre said that more than one million more affordable and social homes are needed in Australia by 2036 to meet projected demand.

According to Laurence Troy, head researcher on the UNSW project, Sydney alone needs to find 200,000 more homes for people facing income stress and the city is experiencing a significant backlog in social and affordable housing due to decades of undersupply.

Right on cue Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes this week said he intends to let more staff work remotely instead of in the company’s Sydney offices because some staff are finding housing is unaffordable and congestion getting worse.

Mr Cannon-Brookes’ decision follows an internal survey that found 95 per cent of staff were interested in working remotely and that the company received 25 per cent more applications for remote working positions than in-office ones.

It could also mean the software company can hold off on more offices in other Australian cities.

Although Sydney’s perceived congestion issues and high living costs were concerns raised by surveyed employees, Mr Cannon-Brookes told the AFR that accessing talent is the “big driver” for expanding the remote working program.

“There’s twice as much talent in the rest of Australia as there is in Sydney, and not all of it wants to come to Sydney,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.

The move shows that the warnings of observers that poor housing choices and unaffordable housing will start to impact the economic health of city economies looks to becoming a reality.

According to Dr Troy the analysis from UNSW shows the whole nation needs higher levels of social and affordable housing.

“Our analysis shows that the sheer number of households in rental stress across the country means that if we’re going to meet the need, at least 12 per cent of all our housing by 2036 will need to be social and affordable housing—which is a very reasonable ambition in global terms,” Dr Troy said.

Only 46 per cent of Australian households that need social housing are currently receiving it.

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