Byron Bay’s Hollywood pricing out locals

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ANNA J. JAMES

Byron Bay is home to some of Hollywood’s elite: Simon Baker, Olivia Newton-John, and Jack Johnson all own property in the northern New South Wales town.

In 2014, Thor star Chris Hemsworth and wife Elsa Pataky purchased a secluded Bali-style Byron Bungalow for a cool $7 million.

However, some locals aren’t impressed by their A-List neighbours who have made Byron Bay a niche and expensive real estate market, transforming the once sleepy hippy town into an impossible dream for the everyday income earner.

“Great place to live, but you pay for it,” said Conan Manson, 32, a former Byron Bay resident. Manson, who has rented in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, contended that Byron Bay was “up there” in rental price compared with Australia’s most expensive cities.

Not all Byron Bay residents are millionaires—far from it. The unemployment rate is three percent higher than the national average resulting in Centrelink restrictions on new settlers in Byron Bay.

“The Byron Shire community is a diverse and colourful mix of people, with each of the towns and rural villages having its own distinctiveness, with a mix of cultural values, embracing both traditional and alternative lifestyles and philosophies” reads the Byron Shire website.

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Tourist hub of Byron Bay becoming real estate nightmare for locals. Source: Anna J. James

 

“In Bryon Bay it’s not uncommon to be at a cafe and find yourself sitting beside someone with $10 to his name and another worth $10 million,” Ray White Byron Bay principal and celebrity house hunter David Gordon told The Daily Telegraph in 2014.

According to the 2011 census, Byron Bay has a permanent population of 4,959 residents, and attracts more than one million tourists per year, tourism being its main industry with almost 20% of the population employed in food and hospitality services.

The media house price in Byron is over one million and a unit is $606,750. Comparatively, the closest city of Brisbane’s media house price is almost half.

Not all Byron Bay residents are millionaires—far from it. The unemployment rate is three percent higher than the national average resulting in Centrelink restrictions on new settlers in Byron Bay.

And despite the health hospitality market, jobs are few and competitive to obtain. In 2014, one Byron Bay food manufacturer reportedly attracted about 800 applications when it advertised a minimum wage position.

“At the end of the day, it’s a tiny costal town with people who’ve lived here for thirty-odd years suddenly unable to pay their rent. It’s a big problem,” said Manson.

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