Is Woolloomooloo The Next Millers Point?

The suburbs of inner Sydney are ever evolving as the needs and desires of the local residents change.

Most recently, we saw a substantial re-positioning of the suburb of Millers Point from a predominantly government housing area, with some run-down but beautiful homes, to the new kid on the block in the world of prestige. This quickly threw the suburb onto the million-dollar median house price list and made headlines in media across the city for its streets of gold as the prices paid at auction for the terraces kept going skyward.

The government carefully calculated this transformation. They publicly stated that the cost of maintaining the homes, compared to what they would sell for on the open market, meant it would be wise to put them up for sale. The funds gained after the auction process would then be fuelled into building other government homes in more affordable areas, where they would get more bang for their buck. This part of the plan has been successful – they were able to get a substantial sum in return for the sales.

It’s likely they’re now looking for the next suburb to revitalize so they can repeat the process. And the obvious choice is three kilometres east along the harbourside - Woolloomooloo - located right next to the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Art Gallery of NSW and nestled among some of the most expensive homes in the country.

In many ways, Woolloomooloo is very similar to Millers Point. Both had 22% of residents renting from a housing authority, according to Microburbs data. This was similar to The Rocks, but about 10 times the public housing seen in Potts Point and Darlinghurst. It has also been through a substantial price surge, meaning the government-held land is today more valuable than it has ever been before.To see this wealth effect, all you need to do is walk five minutes east into Potts Point. Here, just moments away, the achieved property prices can be immense. For instance, large 1890s terrace 'Saraville' 29 Challis Avenue, Potts Point sold for $13 million in April 2016. This set the bar as a new Australia-wide record for a terrace house.

On the other side of Woolloomooloo is Darlinghurst, where prices have also been sky-high during the property boom. The tiny 38 square metre 148 Riley Street sold under the hammer for $1.01 million last year. There is little doubt this will be a tempting proposition to a government needing to find the money to build more public housing.

The area has made its mark, largely thanks to the sought-after Finger Wharf apartments that have been home to Russell Crowe, Lang Walker and John Laws among other celebrities. It is likely some of the homes have price tags in the realm of $30 million. But it’s not just the prices celebrities will pay for real estate that gets them in the news – they’re also often community-minded.

Russell Crowe has been known to help out with local community events, once putting up basketball nets for children attending the Woolloomoolivin’ festival. It’s also not uncommon for the rich and famous to be seen in top Sydney restaurants in the area, including Otto Ristorante, China Doll (frequented by Daniel Johns of Silverchair fame) and Sienna Marina.

This is already a far cry from its days starting out as a poorer working class suburb. Today, in Millers Point, the median house price is $2.7 million, with annual capital growth at almost 15%. The median price for an apartment is $1,795,000, according to CoreLogic. In Woolloomooloo, the median house price is $1.75 million, with apartments just under the $1 million mark. The government housing in the area is clearly worth some big money, should it be taken to the private market.

Described by the City of Sydney as “one of the most diverse” suburbs in the East, where yachts are brushing shoulders with party-goers and low-income tenants, this mixture of the old and the new is going to bring pressure on the government to sell off their housing commission in the area. If it does happen, we’d imagine prices will rise even higher and the area will become the ultimate in upmarket, prestige property.

It will also likely be the subject of intense scrutiny, much alike the Millers Point sell-off, as residents and community groups fight the changes in the city.

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