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I'm a renter on decent money but I still can't even get a crappy studio

Single professional with a great rental history and steady income "can’t even get a crappy studio".

Rent when I moved to Sydney in 2014 was less than $200 for my housemate and me in a two-bedder in the Inner-West. It wasn’t overly fancy, but it had the essentials.

In 2024, I looked at a one-bedder in the same complex I first lived in 10 years ago – it was going for $480 a week. No balcony. No car spot. No internal laundry. Directly under a flight path, and not within walking distance of a supermarket or other amenities. But it was only $480 a week.

Just days before, I received a call about a small studio I applied for. But I missed the call because I was in a work meeting. When I called the real estate back - 11 minutes later - I was told it had already been offered to the next best applicant.

I found myself applying for another studio apartment for $495 a week. “It doesn’t have an oven or any storage space,” I told some friends. “But you can live without an oven for 12 months, right?”

Renter Tahlia sitting on a swing smiling.
Renting even a studio has become an impossible task for Tahlia, who has found herself unable to land a home even when compromising on quality. (Source: Yahoo Finance)

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A lot of people seemed to think the same, because I watched fellow singles, couples, and even young families take a look around the small studio space and deem it acceptable enough to live in - maybe because it was a rare find for under $500 a week. We went up in shifts, 10-15 people at a time cramming into a tiny elevator in the hopes we’d secure this “bargain”.

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Maybe it didn’t matter that the blinds were broken and stuck, with a makeshift curtain hanging over the top, indicating that no further maintenance work would be done. You could definitely survive with an air-fryer and microwave and forgo an oven. And living out of a bar fridge surely wouldn’t be that hard? Plus, once you sell half your possessions to fit into the small space, you’d basically be able to afford one week of rent, stress-free.

When I exited, there were still crowds of people lining up, ready to offer whatever it took to secure the studio.

“It’s an absolute steal considering the prices of everything right now,” one man with a measuring tape enthusiastically told the real estate agent on his way out - a positive indication that we’ve all lost our minds.

This is the current state of Sydney’s rental crisis.

Rent advertisement for a studio showing carpeted room and small kitchenette with no oven and an inset of Tahlia, a blonde woman smiling in a leather jacket.
Rent advertisements look nothing like the actual property when you walk in the door. This studio had stained carpet, shonky blinds and no oven. (Source: Domain/Yahoo Finance Australia)

Believe it or not, I’m one of the fortunate ones right now. While I’ve been rejected from all of the places I’ve applied for so far in January, I am a single, 33-year-old woman, on a steady income, with no pets, non-smoker, and a great rental history, and I don’t face the pressure of having a young family to feed or the worry about having to take care of anyone other than myself.

With the demand much higher than the supply, many adults are being forced back into share housing just to survive in a city they either call home or at least put up with in order to grow their careers.

When I pictured my life at 33, I didn’t quite imagine I’d be still in share housing and not be able to secure a place of my own. I didn’t picture friends and family leaving a city where we all created a community just in order to take the financial pressure off. I didn’t picture friends moving back in with their parents in their 30s, just to be able to stay on the outskirts of a city where they had built their livelihoods.

The thought of being able to own my own place (particularly as a single person) in Sydney feels virtually impossible. And now the ability to simply rent on your own is also starting to feel like a fantasy.

For me, to move out on my own currently is a want, not a need, which makes me one of the lucky ones who has time to wait it out – unless my next rent hike in six or so months potentially prices me out of even my share house accommodation. Others aren’t so fortunate.

Sydney is currently facing a record low, in terms of the number of properties available to rent, as well as prices that have skyrocketed. People are now paying exorbitant amounts just to “make do”. Last year’s Domain rental report detailed that the median price for a rental in Sydney was $720 a week for houses, and $680 a week for units – a $130 increase for units per week, compared to 2022 data.

If you’re on a single income with no partner to lean on, you have three choices:

  • Have a huge chunk of your salary go into being able to live in a studio or one-bedroom apartment

  • Move into a share house

  • Move out of the city

Many tenants are facing a crisis where they simply cannot afford to rent in Sydney anymore, and there’s no sign of reprieve anytime soon.

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