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This is a bit outdated now, but check out this 2016 land value map and watch the waves of property value increase crashing down upon little old Marrickville.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