The truth about living in Sydney: Everyone has an escape plan
March 14, 2018 12:12:02
Behind Sydney’s beautiful views are Sydneysiders comparing notes on how to leave. (ABC News: Taryn Southcombe)
If you were at a party with 20 or 30-something Sydneysiders four years ago, the dominant conversational topic was getting into the property market.
It seemed like every person spent their weekends scouring the real estate pages and attending auctions to the point where they could trade details on how prices were moving in different regions with the sort of forensic detail previously reserved for sports analysis and, presumably, forensics.
Now things have changed. People aren’t trading tips on how to buy in Sydney. They’re comparing notes on how to leave.
An exit plan
When my wife and I started telling our friends about our plans to move our family out of Sydney and head for the wider spaces and less aggressive rents of Adelaide, something unexpected happened.
Around three quarters of the people confessed that they too had an exit strategy planned.
One was slowly moving stuff into his parents’ garage in Newcastle ahead of a planned relocation.
Another couple had been inspecting properties in Perth with a view to moving when they decided to have kids.
Another had sent their partner ahead to look at opportunities on the Gold Coast before they committed to taking the plunge.
And friends that had moved to Hobart joked that they were hosting guests every weekend as Sydneysiders popped down to check the city out.
Hobart is luring many young people from the mainland. (ABC News: Gregor Salmon)
Even young, single people were looking at their finances and figuring that it would be no more expensive to move overseas — to London or New York or Nashville or Berlin — places that feel like cultural centres where you can at least get a drink on a week night.
The people who were determined to stay in Sydney weren’t sure how they could manage long term. Even those who weren’t fearing a budget-busting rent increase spoke darkly of rumoured developments or shared stories of compulsory acquisitions that didn’t come close to paying for an equivalent property.
Everyone seemed to feel like they were one unexpected redundancy or medical crisis away from their entire economic system collapsing.
Work is changing where we can live
Part of it is down to the changes in work, even in the city with the lowest unemployment in the country.
With flatlining wages and a drop in permanent work, more and more people are working on casual gig contracts.
Aside from the economic effects of such parlous employment, it also makes working far more “flexible”.
Once upon a time permanent jobs and mortgages tied people to the city; now that both are less common, it’s easier to up stumps.
Everyone seems squeezed a little more every day — financially by rent bumps or road tolls or public transport increases, or physically by smaller and smaller properties and imposing developments lining every road, or emotionally by a city that seems culturally disinterested — whether that’s selling off the Powerhouse or begrudgingly winding back lock-out laws years after most of the city’s venues have vanished.
Why I won’t miss Sydney
It’s still a stunningly beautiful city, with glorious beaches I can never park close to and gorgeous galleries that buses go nowhere near while the light rail is tearing up the CBD, where the once-iconic Hopetoun Hotel sits boarded up and the Sando in Newtown becomes a novelty minigolf pub to remind me exactly how far Sydney has come from the city I fell in love with.
The Sandringham Hotel, one of Sydney’s iconic live music venues, became the Newtown Social Club before reopening in 2018 as a minigolf pub. (Facebook: Newtown Social Club)
And that’s why I’m looking forward to the open skies of Adelaide, where we’ll have enough headroom to spend our weekends doing something other than recovering from the stress of the previous week and bracing ourselves for the stress to come.
And if the current trend is anything to go by, we’ll see you a lot of you down there.
Andrew P Street is a freelance writer.
March 14, 2018 06:00:00