Beyond Oxford Street

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How LGBTQI housing trends have changed

 

The push for marriage equality and wider social acceptance, gentrification and changing tastes, the lock-out laws and even the meet-up app Grindr have all contributed to the movement of Sydney’s LGBTQI community out of its traditional heartlands of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst into other suburbs.

“Times have changed since the early 1990s when the LGBTQI community would stick together for safety in specific pockets around Oxford Street,” says Roger Agha, the director of Devine Real Estate.

“The community is far more accepted and open these days, which has seen a dramatic shift in the way they purchase and rent property.”

Matt Marano, an agent at Oxford Agency, which moved its head office into the site of a former gay nightclub in Taylor Square in 2015, says the lock-out laws have fundamentally changed the area’s demographics.

“There’s still a lot of LGBTQI buyers coming through, but in the past they were dominating it,” he says.

“You’ve got more heterosexual couples with families moving in, particularly around Potts Point and the Potts’ end of Darlinghurst. The rentals may have suffered a bit too, because the party scene is not there for the younger crowd.”

Although it still bursts to life every year during the Mardi Gras festival, Oxford Street has lost its shine for many in the older LGBTQI community who feel it hasn’t been the same since its heyday in the 1990s.

Many older buyers and young renters with high disposable incomes have moved to Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay where they’ve found a cosmopolitan atmosphere that Oxford Street was once famous for.

“Generally speaking, [those who identify as gay] have gravitated to suburbs that offer a great lifestyle, such as trendy eateries, well designed and clean neighbourhoods, a young crowd, health and fitness facilities, and a thriving nightlife,” Agha says.

Matt Marano points to Redfern and Stanmore, and highlights Annandale in particular as one to watch.

Agent Ian Qiu of Morton Pyrmont, who is marketing a warehouse-style apartment in Jacksons Landing, says that the northern end of Pyrmont has become more attractive to older members of the LGBTQI community due to its peace and quiet and its proximity to the city.

For younger buyers and renters, the eastern suburbs’ high prices, the lock-out laws, a string of empty shops along Oxford Street and the Grindr phenomenon – where those who identify as LGBTQI can find one another online in virtually any suburb – have meant that the Oxford Street area is less appealing.

As a result, many younger LGBTQIs have found the inner west a better option to rent in or buy.

And while Newtown and Erskineville have also long found themselves to be a new home for those escaping Oxford Street, many community members can find respite from the area’s high prices in Marrickville, Tempe and Sydenham, where there is a LGBTQI party scene bubbling away with no lock-out restrictions and more realistic prices.

Agha says that the lock-outs have “absolutely” made the Oxford Street surroundings less attractive. “The younger members of the [LGBTQI] community love a thriving nightlife so they resort to other areas where there are no such restrictions.”

But while the LGBTQI community may be moving into the suburbs on the southern fringes of the inner west that were once considered the rust belt, don’t assume that they will necessarily migrate much further out of the inner city anytime soon.

As Terence Stamp’s Bernadette muses in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: “I don’t know if that ugly wall of suburbia’s been put there to stop them getting in, or us getting out.”

This article first appeared on Domain.com.au on March 5, 2017.

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