City of Sydney’s $20 million plan to bring creatives back to Sydney, calls for more affordable housing

City of Sydney’s $20 million plan to bring creatives back to Sydney, calls for more affordable housing
Image: Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)



The City of Sydney has unveiled a $20 million plan to rebuild the city’s cultural life by creating affordable spaces for artists and creatives. 

The rising cost of living and soaring rents have locked many creatives out of the city, which has seen an 11 per cent decrease in the number of artists living locally. 

“While Sydney is a powerhouse of culture for the nation, what makes that possible is at risk. Our creative workforce increasingly can’t afford to live or work here,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore. 

“Our creative community has demonstrated extraordinary resilience in the face of unprecedented financial pressures, but unless we support their work and provide affordable and secure creative space, we risk losing our cultural vibrancy.”

Collaborating with the NSW Government, the Lord Mayor has joined forces with NSW Arts Minister John Graham to establish a Creative Land Trust as part of the 10-year cultural strategy. 

The goal is to create affordable studio and rehearsal spaces for artists through raising money from governments and philanthropy, which has seen success in London and New York. 

Arts Minister Graham said, “We all – government agencies, councils, private landholders – need to come together to preserve and protect our creative communities and activate spaces.”

“We are going to shift from what we’ve been doing which is building a small number of amazing public spaces to using a range of levers to deliver space and crucially activating space that already exists.” 

Current council initiatives 

The local art scene has become increasingly threatened due to lack of space available to mid-sized venues and organisations. In fact, there’s been a decrease in the amount of commercial floorspace for creative industries in local areas since 2012. 

In April, the council passed a motion to provide access to low cost or free rehearsal spaces for musicians and creatives. Now, the City of Sydney is amping up its measures to rebuild the cultural life of the city. 

These initiatives include the use of artist fellowships and grant programs, which would allow creatives to afford staying here and producing work, along with keeping existing creative spaces alive. 

A planning aid service would also be utilised to navigate the approval process for events and venues while public spaces, libraries and community venues would install writers’ rooms, artists’ studios and performance infrastructure. 

But some have said that the council could be investing more in affordable housing for artists. 

“Not a major investment” 

Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore told City Hub, “The investment in creative spaces announced isn’t being matched with investment in affordable housing for artists. 

“That’s the massive missing piece.”

She also added that while the funding for this is welcome, it is not a significant amount in comparison to the City’s annual budget. 

“More investment in creative spaces is absolutely needed, but it needs to be acknowledged that within the City’s $800m+ annual budget, $20 million over ten years is not a major investment.”

She also highlighted that the City’s new draft Cultural Strategy lacks firm commitments on housing. 

There’s been an 11 per cent decrease in the number of artists living locally, largely attributed to soaring rents. Sydney’s average weekly rent cost amounts to 62 per cent of the average artist’s income.

“We don’t need more research on the barriers to affordable housing,” said Cr Ellsmore. 

“Lack of access to affordable housing is the single biggest reason we are losing artists and creatives.”


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