It now takes more than nine times the average salary to buy a house in Sydney. Just a single generation ago it took three.
I don’t know about you, but as a “young person” currently living in Sydney, I find that statistic depressing. It’s becoming increasingly close to impossible for people my age to find somewhere decent to live in this city. Most of our friends in similar situations (twentysomethings, often still studying or recently finished and in their first jobs, many of whom are married or living with a partner) have taken one of the following all-too-familiar paths to living in Sydney suburbs:
1. They spend an exorbitant amount of their pay renting a crappy run down apartment the size of a shoebox
2. They rent a small place on the very fringes of the wider Sydney metropolitan area, far away from the city and usually far away from friends as well
3. They move into a ‘granny flat‘ space in someone’s backyard or basement – often, the home of their parents
Yes, we could move out of Sydney and live somewhere more affordable, but the simple fact is that this isn’t really an option for most of us at this stage of our lives. The costs, whether they’re purely financial or tied to a particular job or living circumstances, of relocation are just too high. We can’t afford to stay and we can’t afford to leave.
This is the part where a lot of proud property-owning Sydneysiders start grumping about Gen Y and our sense of entitlement. “You just have to learn to save,” they snipe. “I started saving from the moment I got a job at 14. Now I’m 23 and I have a modest three bedroom in the suburbs. All these entitled Gen Y kids who spend six years studying for a useless arts degree and sipping a latte every morning need to grow up and get a grip, otherwise of course they’ll never own a house. Find a job that pays well in a high-demand field, or work in investment banking, and stop complaining.”
To this kind of thinking I say: look, mate, not everyone wants to have a soulless career just so they can buy a house in Sydney. Not everyone wants to sacrifice other things that they feel are more important so they can buy property here. And some of us just plain don’t have a choice.
So, rather than sit around complaining about it, me and the husband are choosing Option Number 3, with a view to move out of the big smoke as soon as we can both find stable employment related to our skill sets somewhere else. And I’m particularly excited about our granny flat – because we’re going to be renovating it and decorating it ourselves!
Well, by ‘ourselves’ I mean ‘mostly my in-laws’, who are doing the lion’s share of the actual work, since it’s their house. Our soon-to-be-home is currently a large double garage space situated underneath the rest of a house. It’s a little over 60 square metres in size, which is not to be sneezed at, and will have a fully functional bathroom and kitchen, as well as a comfortably-sized living area and bedroom.
At the moment, though, you can have a conversation through the ceiling with people walking around in the house up above, the walls are exposed brick, the floor is concrete and covered in stains, and there is no kitchen to speak of. So we’re embarking on a journey to take the space from garage to granny flat.
We’ll be putting soundproof insulation in the ceiling (and then adding ceiling panels), laying plasterboard over almost all the brick walls, painting all the walls, laying carpet tiles and other flooring, installing a kitchen, purchasing furniture, moving in all of our stuff, and making it our new home. In the process we will keep IKEA in business for another year and I get to employ all the interior decorating and home organisation tips and tricks I’ve gleaned from obsessively reading Apartment Therapy for years.
Of course we’ll be documenting the project and I will be writing about the process, so if you’re curious to see what’s involved in transforming a garage into an apartment, keep an eye out.