lifestyle

It's official: Rent has become ridiculous.

“Live in poverty close to the city, or move further out and spend hours commuting.”

Let’s play a game of “Would You Rather?”

Like you used to play in high school. You know, like, “Would you rather accidentally catch your parents having sex, or have to jump in a cage full of piranhas?”

That is what the rental situation in Australian cities is beginning to feel like. Only this time, we’re choosing between long and expensive commutes to work, or workshopping dinners based on baked beans six nights a week. Poor or far. Pick your poison.

And Sydney is the toughest of the lot. That was the bottom line of the Sydney Morning Herald article this morning discussing the outrageous rental prices in inner-city Sydney. Hardly inspiring, the article confirms what I have long suspected: it’s not me, it’s them.

Happy young couple standing inside their new house with a welcome mat at the front door
Dream on: if you’re spending 60% of your income on a rental, how will you ever save for a house of your own?

After spending around six years renting in Melbourne, the prices of similar housing here in Sydney was a shock to the system. At almost twice the price of what I was paying before, it wasn’t really clear what the price hike was about. Was it because we were closer to the equator? Were there flecks of gold available for sifting in a backyard stream? Wait, did we even have a backyard?

Like most of our Aussie cities, the inner city housing was typified by old (“character-filled”) multi-story houses — think rambling terraces with slightly musty bathrooms and dark bedrooms, pokey kitchens, and tiny staircases that make visually impaired people like myself clammy with fear.

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Unlike most, however, these houses weren’t occupied by Arts students and freelance writers; rather, Sydney’s professionals were residing here. You know, the fancy people. Rent increases were pushing the Audi drivers out of their polished-wood-and-stainless-steel apartments of the CBD, and into the older houses of the inner suburbs.

“If they need to live close to the inner city, they have to put more than 60 per cent of their income towards rent, leaving them in severe housing stress which is defined as spending more than 30 per cent of total income on housing.” – Sydney Morning Herald.

Um, if spending 30% of your hard earned bones on a roof over your head equals ‘severe housing stress’, then what does it mean to  spend 60% of your cash? Self-implosion?

buying a new house
I call this — ‘Rent Killed My Social Life.’

And that’s not even the worst news.

Wanna live in a truly fancy suburb like Darling Point or Woolahra? You’re looking at forking at an insane 70-85% of your weekly income on your house. So whilst your address will be on point; be prepared for your fridge to be empty, and your weekend plans to involve a lot of sitting alone on park benches wondering what your pals in Newtown are doing with their significantly higher amounts of spare cash.

The housing that WAS affordable — based on the average income — all sat almost 50km from the city centre. That’s around one hour by car, or three and a half hours by public transport.

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BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE ALL FEEL LIKE DOING AFTER A LONG DAY OF STARING AT A BOTTOMLESS INBOX AND DEALING WITH GROPEY JOSEPH FROM ACCOUNTS AND EATING DIRTY OLD CHINESE FOOD FROM THE FOOD COURT FOR LUNCH.

men taking up too much space on public transport
Would you rather… live in poverty in the city, or have to deal with this guy for hours and hours on your daily commute?

This kind of urban struggle was something most Australians attributed to overseas jaunts — you know, nibbling slowly on a baguette that cost you $25 because you just love Paris so much; or living in a New York broom cupboard because it was always your dream to be on Broadway.

The suburbs of our capital cities were meant to be home. Friendly and familiar, lined with jacarandas and cornered with the local pub. Flatting with friends, and one day buying a place of your own. A dream that is feeling further and further away with every house inspection I go to.

If we are spending 60% of our dollars on rent, then what happens to all the other lovely things in life that deserve our bucks? As someone in her late twenties, I want to spend my money on clothes, soft cheese, and expensive cocktails that involve gold-leaf-dusted-rims before I have a kid, mortgage, and waistline to think about.

Struggling financially as a young person is fine, struggling financially because you’re being crippled by outrageous rent is not.

What do you think? Are rental costs affecting your lifestyle?

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