Where next Sydney freaks?

This is a draft of a thing I am thinking about. Subject to revision, hatemail and criticism.

OK, denizens of Sydney’s inner west, where are we going next? I am a fan of living in a dynamic and exciting city where I have inspiration on tap, from freaks and nutters and people who were born somewhere else. A bit of diversity, a bit of spice, a chance to dress up and be weird.

I know we all love the warehouse scene in Marrickville, I certainly do. I love that there are gigs here, and sneaky parties and markets and you can get 10 different types of vietnamese cuisine and drop in to a greek spit roast after spending the arvo in an artist-run space, then spew into the canal. Or whatever floats your boat

UPDATE: Looks like I am moving to Melbourne. Currently barnraising a cooperative house, in the Ouroboros project.

Why this cannot last

My main beef is that I can’t imagine the next cohort will be able to keep generating all the weirdness that makes it worthwhile. It is too expensive now, and the average age is increasing, and it is getting real hard to survive here if you are young, or an immigrant, or basically if you don’t have parent footing your bills.

This is a bit outdated now, but check out this 2016 land value map and watch the waves of property value increase crashing down upon little old Marrickville.

This place is on a trajectory towards expensive, old, homogenous and boring, and if we want to be where it is cheap, fresh, diverse, and interesting, we need to make plans now for where to be next. And this place needs us less and less. Our tour of duty as the shock troops of gentrification here is drawing to a finish.

When I talk about where to go next, afficionados of the inner west usually look at me funny, like I want to move to sleepy suburbia 90 minutes in the shadow of a megachurch.

But here, let me sell you on the benefits.

There are exciting, more interesting places in Sydney

Nope, there is heaps of interesting Sydney left to be in, if we aren’t too snobby to see it. There are lots of thriving and interesting and more chaotic places, places with street culture and fun stuff and I think we could really bring something to such places. If we are really fond of the bubble we live in, I reckon we should see if other people can also be persuaded that our bubble has merit.

There are cheaper places in Sydney

Oh, and there are many more places which are cheaper too. That is good not just for us, but for the life and vibrancy of the community, where not everyone needs to work 70 hour weeks to pay the rent, and someone has time to keep it pumping.

Turning that around: What could we offer to a place that we moved to? What is the kind of space where we could make it better by being there? What can we offer to make people want to have us there? I feel like there is an implicit suggestion here that moving somewhere where we could keep a vibrant diverse and welcoming space would be a real win. Because, no mistake, my proposal is also talking about gentrifying somewhere. I think that is also unavoidable, practically. Land is a zero sum game, and we all have to live somewhere. I could make a case that I think I am good for wherever I move, but I am clearly too biased to be an objective judge of that, so I will not waste our time. But if we want to ameliorate the process that is driving us out of our homes we could think about how to foster a less bad version of it where we go next. Could we, though, we give something back in return? Apart from keeping the property values low by hosting loud parties, I mean. Can we invest in our own futures of openness and diversity so we would find ourselves ruining it less for everyone else in turn? Maybe simply [More opportunities and cultural understanding?

We have more power if we move outside our bubble.

My other selling point of moving: The inner west is a safe political seat. You have zero political leverage living here, because the incumbed representatives have massive margins. If you leave this bubble you move to more marginal seats, where your vote is worth more, and where politicans need to listen to your community’s voice to win the votes they need to stay in power. Leaving the inner west: good for you, good for Australian political power.

Coming soon: I’m working on a data visualisation app for this at the moment

Where next?

So: Where next? Canterbury? Ashfield? Hurstville? Lakemba? Bankstown? …More ambitious? Lidcombe? Blacktown? Wollongong? 1

And how to live there is a whole different kettle of fish.


What is a liveable place? Can someone repeat this Most Livable Cities Meta-Analysis for Australia?

  1. Or, bigger picture, we want to have a look at where climate change is going to be extra bad and move there? That might mean abandoning this city entirely and heading south. Wollongong, Melbourne, Tasmania… but that is a story for next decade. Probably↩︎

1 comment

Chris Mountford

I think you're describing a thresholding function - the discontinuity where the income potential of the people you want to live around falls below the price determined by the invisible hand or if you prefer, the number determined by the pumped up gambler inside every would be competitor for that same space. I ask, why do so many people with more money like what you like? Elsewhere you say you don’t want to live around boring rich people. In Australia, we are all rich, globally speaking, so therefore, all boring?

You're right to point out that other communities, to which you would represent the same evil force of gentrification, are on the verge of complaining of the same thing, should you arrive and stink up their sleepy hollow with all your metrosexual monopoly money.

There are two sides of this coin that I think should not be separated. One is the effort and reward of building of community value at what you present as an absolute cost determined by your apparent earning potential and that of your favourite weirdos. The second side is the delta improvement of earning potential that you and those same favourite weirdos could attain instead. To be precise this delta is relative to the price-competitive demand - quite high if there are loads of cashed up, motivated boring people who are chasing the dream you created but who represent something of a fart in the elevator. These two sides of the coin are functions over time, affected by your decisions predominantly but also by the influence you wield in such eloquent articles as your audience rise up and seize the means of profit.

Or, you could make bank ethically and become a patron of the arts.

One might have the skills to acquire the means to fund Marrickville 2.0. How could you? Either through taking some of your precious attention and spending it on increasing the market value for your skills or through writing another blog post about collectivisation and systems or the education of your weirdos in generating the necessary funds without being besmirched by the capitalism of it all. Indeed it seems you have been asking these questions elsewhere.

Or, to flip the coin back again, maybe we need to adopt the living habits of immigrants? Brothers and sisters living together and pooling resources. More people in the warehouse with collective ownership and getting fucking organised in all the ways etc.

I don’t want to hear that this can’t be done any more than you want to hear that establishing a new colony in the promised land is infeasible.

Hell yeah I'm triggered. Personally I find a tiresome inevitability where so few perceive it or discuss it: it is self-flagellation for inner-west anti-capitalism to be driven by a religious dogma that at once insists that a right to a place be funded by forced acquisition of resources via political control (somehow, against all evidence that it will succeed) and also a mandated fervour to keep one's hands clean of the nasty work required to acquire such resources. Learn business, marketing, finance, science, technology and maths! If to do so is to become the enemy then we should see the consequence is I lose the rat race, which means not only am I a rat, but I'm a loser! I suggest one needs these skills more than many things still taught in schools today, and more than ever.

Why doom ourselves to such inner conflict? Starving artists cannot make better art if they starve to death! If making art is the priority rather than merely leaving a corpse with pure artistic intentions, then we should suit up and take the advice of some of the most successful artists, taking charge of the responsibility to deliver volume and value, and to be paid. The landlord is no artist? The vendor is no artist? Is that because what they offer is only of little value to us (unlike high art) whereas all this mob of competitors are confused and offer prices that are objectively too high?

It reminds me of omnivores vs vegans. At least vegans can rationally claim a right to disgust at having blood on their hands whereas meat eaters who find slaughter distasteful ought to look in the mirror. If you live in a place so many others want to live, you have benefactors by virtue of the profit they make. As opaque and long as the chain, may be, it's still a transitive fact: daddy has blood diamonds.

I recognise I've taken this somewhat sideways but here's the zinger. This is all stolen land we are haggling over.

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