Sydney - Gentrification and Displacement

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Executive Summary

A city like Sydney, described as “fragmented on the basis of class,” having a “latte line that divides the wealthy from the vulnerable,” and not having “even a pocket of affordable living” appears to have been built that way intentionally. This research study seeks to explore the phenomena of vulnerability, gentrification, displacement, and exclusion in Sydney, Australia. It explains that these inequalities are influenced by a complex intersection of state and local government actions; private market supremacy; limited protections for low-income renters; speculation and commodification; and regional impacts of large-scale infrastructure projects across greater Sydney. The report explores key case study neighborhoods in the Sydney and greater Sydney area to better understand the unique neighborhood change and displacement challenges that Sydney residents face. Research performed for this report builds upon UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project (UDP)’s indicators and typologies of displacement and neighborhood change by further expanding on its work in cities outside the United States. It seeks to describe neighborhood change in an international city in order to understand the role of different institutional and local contexts that contribute to gentrification and displacement.

An initial document and literature review studied housing and instability; demographic and socioeconomic trends; capital markets and real estate cycles; neighborhood change; future concerns of gentrification and displacement; and Indigenous housing allocation and public perception. The documents examined relate to the past, present, and future plans for housing development and housing allocation in Sydney and the greater Sydney region. This research also builds upon the work being done by local researchers, community members, and organizations, taking into account the expertise that these individuals hold as stakeholders in Sydney.

This research study adopts a mixed methods approach. Quantitative methods were used to create typologies that highlight areas experiencing gentrification and displacement, exclusion of low-income households, and high versus low risk of future gentrification and displacement. We then mapped these typologies of neighborhood change for the Sydney metropolitan region. The qualitative methods used in this study include semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and case study analysis of two districts in the Sydney metropolitan region. These research methods help answer the following questions:

  • What are the main drivers of neighborhood change in Sydney? How are gentrification and displacement manifesting?
  • To what extent are gentrification and displacement (disproportionately) impacting lowincome renters in the Sydney metropolitan region?
  • What policies or best practices improve housing stability for low-income renters?

Examining the connections between our interview findings and quantitative analysis yielded several important findings:

Australian housing, financial, and social policy is tailored towards profit and wealth generation rather than ensuring housing affordability for the country’s citizens. The slow contraction of Australia’s social housing sector, a lack of government mechanisms to provide affordable housing, and private sector actions have all contributed to an increasingly inequitable housing environment.

Gentrification and displacement can be spurred by government actions, namely redevelopment of social housing stock and upgrades to transportation infrastructure. These actions often function as triggers of neighborhood change. 

Australia lacks robust pathways for accommodating community voices in planning decisions and strong tenant protections for households vulnerable to forced mobility.

Sydney’s Aboriginal community faces continued marginalization and the threat of losing their longtime homes, representing the nation’s enduring legacy of settler colonialism.

There is a wide range of options that could help remedy housing affordability in the greater Sydney region. These include creating a larger set of financing and zoning mechanisms for affordable housing; increasing financial support for local community housing providers; improving coordination between all levels or government, especially at the local and state level; enhancing planning powers for local councils; providing space for meaningful community input on local planning decisions; and implementing protections for renters against the perils of an unregulated private housing market.

Our project faced numerous obstacles, such as data limitations and the COVID-19 pandemic preventing us from actually travelling to Sydney to conduct research. Nevertheless, we hope that this report contributes to the established literature on gentrification and displacement as set out by the authors who guided our research. Hopefully our work can inspire and inform future research in Sydney and beyond.

Sydney Displacement Study

Ryan Canavan - Letitia Carpenter - Emmanuel Lopez - Shivani Raina - Julian Tucker

Part of the Spring 2020 Urban Displacement Studio, this research study seeks to explore the phenomena of vulnerability, gentrification, displacement, and exclusion in Sydney, Australia. It explains that inequalities across space are influenced by a complex intersection of state and local government actions; private market supremacy; limited protections for low-income renters; speculation and commodification; and regional impacts of large-scale infrastructure projects across greater Sydney. It seeks to describe neighborhood change in an international city in order to understand the role of different institutional and local contexts that contribute to gentrification and displacement.

We used descriptive quantitative methods to adapt UDP’s displacement typologies and unveil areas in Sydney experiencing gentrification and displacement, exclusion of low-income households, and high versus low risk of future gentrification and displacement. Our qualitative methods, including semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and case study analysis of two districts in the Sydney metropolitan region, provided a more nuanced picture of local dynamics. Examining the connections between interviews and quantitative analysis yielded several important findings:

  • Australian housing, financial, and social policy is tailored towards profit and wealth generation rather than ensuring housing affordability for the country’s citizens. The slow contraction of Australia’s social housing sector, a lack of government mechanisms to provide affordable housing, and private sector actions have all contributed to an increasingly inequitable housing environment.
  • Gentrification and displacement can be spurred by government actions, namely redevelopment of social housing stock and upgrades to transportation infrastructure. These actions often function as triggers of neighborhood change.
  • Australia lacks robust pathways for accommodating community voices in planning decisions and strong tenant protections for households vulnerable to forced mobility.
  • Sydney’s Aboriginal community faces continued marginalization and the threat of losing their longtime homes, representing the nation’s enduring legacy of settler colonialism.
  • There is a wide range of options that could help remedy housing affordability in the greater Sydney region. These include creating a larger set of financing and zoning mechanisms for affordable housing; increasing financial support for local community housing providers; improving coordination between all levels or government, especially at the local and state level; enhancing planning powers for local councils; providing space for meaningful community input on local planning decisions; and implementing protections for renters against the perils of an unregulated private housing market.
Research Limitations

This project faced numerous obstacles, such as data limitations and the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the student team from actually travelling to Sydney to conduct research. Nevertheless, the authors hope that this report contributes to the established literature on gentrification and displacement, and that it inspires and informs future research in Sydney and beyond.