Why we should subsidize hipster novelists' housing

But finding a space of my own to write in one of Australia’s capital cities is like finding a unicorn. The high cost of housing in most of the country’s big cities means the writer trying to live off her craft is edged out – either of the city or from her work. Of course, you can do sharehousing (as I have done over the years to try and save cash), but the pay-off means sacrificing the space and solitude needed to really get deep into your book.

Sydney – long ago unaffordable to most jobbing writers – isn’t a place where you’ll overhear a lot of people talking about problems with plot and character development. Instead, the talk is about limited places at day care and stress-inducing mortgages. The city of Sydney recently tried to address the problem of artists being priced out by introducing six rent-subsidised studio spaces in Darlinghurst. Those chosen get a year-lease and pay reduced rent of $250 a week on a one-bedroom with work studio. In the meantime, to overhear the writerly conversations , you have to head west – towards the Blue Mountains, where there is a strong writing community creating work in a more affordable locale.

It can pay-off to make your city affordable and welcoming to artists. A decade ago Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit tried to attract a creative class to the city by declaring “Berlin ist arm, aber sexy” (poor but sexy). Now the city is booming. Berlin is seen the coolest city in Europe – and the third most visited tourist destination after London and Paris. The city is also adding 30,000 residents every year – despite Germany’s population stagnating.

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