Room with a view

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You’ve probably read or seen TV footage over the past few weeks about a young guy in Sydney who is living on balcony and paying $215 a week for the privilege – at least he wouldn’t have to worry about air-conditioning in summer, but winter might be a little nippy.

The report says that the 23-year-old, let’s call him Josh because that is his name, lives on a balcony that is accessed through his housemate’s bedroom. It has a large windowless arch next to his bed that no doubt brings in all manner of flora and fauna as well as plenty of fumes and noise from the street below, which just happens to be King Street in Newtown.

I like Newtown. It’s like West End in Brisbane, only much, much bigger. If I lived in Sydney I would live in Newtown, although I probably wouldn’t live on a balcony if I couldn’t afford a decent roof over my head in that neck of the woods. I might have in my 20s, mind you.

Reaction to the story has been mixed as those faceless, nameless online commentators often found on news stories and social media sites indicated that his story was less about the ridiculous cost of rent in Sydney and more about someone possibly wanting to live amongst all the action but without the financial wherewithal to realistically do it.

In my opinion, these unknown assailants have probably never tried to live in London or New York when they were young. When I lived in the British capital in the mid-90s, we had people living in rooms no bigger than cupboards, as well as on the lounge-room floor where they “dossed” until a space– no matter what size or shape – came up. It sure taught you to appreciate what was available back home in New Zealand or Australia.

Anyone who has been a university student will also remember the necessity of living with more people than is healthy for your mind, body or soul because you only had enough money to pay a minimal amount rent and still be able to afford beer. It was squishy sometimes but I rarely look back on those days without smiling.

When it comes down to it, Josh lives on a balcony in Newtown because he is cool with that. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea – and the wind would probably make his tea go colder much quicker than is necessary – but each to their own. It also is a very good indicator that Sydney really is very expensive. By comparison Brisbane is much more affordable. To rent and buy.

In West End, for example, for the equivalent of what Josh and his housemates combined pay in rent for their two-bedroom unit, you could probably get a cute little cottage or a river-front apartment less than 2km from the city. And breezes would only be blowing through your bedroom because you had the window open. That sounds much more agreeable to me.

Nicola McDougall is the REIQ’s Executive Manager Corporate Affairs