Sydney's hidden neighbourhood treasures - is Lakemba the new Redfern?

Sydney's hidden neighbourhood treasures - is Lakemba the new Redfern?

Shops that are rundown and empty with streets that felt unsafe and not much of a social life. That was Redfern twenty years ago before it was buzzing with cafes and independent bars with a growing culture that embraces design and art, Redfern was one of Sydney’s least desirable place to live.

When I’m not designing for the built environment and running my Sydney design agency JSD Agency, my partner and I are exploring new places to eat and drink in Sydney’s untapped neighbourhood, discovering what each area has to offer where affordability and liveability is concerned.  

Cities grow fast and some really cool areas are popping up in Sydney, but there are so many great areas that are undervalued and make Sydney an affordable place to live.

The Urban Developer recently wrote an article on how close you can get to the CBD for under $500k for a unit. They listed the top 5 suburbs and Lakemba ranked at number one.

I spent a lot of time visiting and growing up in Lakemba as my parents are both from there, so I know the it and the surrounding suburbs fairly well. Everyone says how dangerous it is, but this is said off the cuff and they’ve not visited the area in 10 years!

It is rough and dishevelled now, but so was Redfern 10-15 years ago. My parents looked at terrace in the mid 80’s opposite Redfern Park for $130k. If only they had bought it!

I can see the positive changes happening in Lakemba and surrounding suburbs, such as new decent developments, cafes and improved urban landscaping. Now is a good time to look outside of the CBD bubble to invest or buy for the long term in this area or surrounding suburbs. The older blocks are solid, somewhat dated design, don’t have lifts as they are max three and four stories high, but have very low maintenance costs and strata. Transport will improve long term (Metro opening in 2024) and will benefit the area. It’s good time to get in now before property prices go up!

All new apartments being built now have high strata fees due to multiple lifts, pools, gyms and concierges. One really important fact to be aware of is that new buildings now only have a two year defect period, reduced from six. This means developers and builders have less interest in building a quality building. Already, apartments less than 10 years old are having remedial works done and this comes at a massive cost to you in special levies, which can start at $5k every quarter for a few years or as a one off fee for around $50k. Look into a cheap red or blonde brick apartment block no more than three or four stories high, they have low strata fees and if looked after, cheaper maintenance costs. Look at this great example of an award winning up-cycling a red brick apartment block.

One of my favourite surrounding pockets, Belfield, has a new cafe Bricklane N12. Owned by a local resident who is bringing a bit of London inspiration to the area, it is now a destination cafe. The owner mentioned that the new residents coming into the area are from Marrickville, where the rent is now astronomical. The difference between Campsie and Marrickville (4 train stops) in rent for a 2 bed house with parking is $400+ per week!

The benefits of living a bit further out include cheaper groceries, very interesting and diverse suburbs, amazing choice of food without the over designed interiors (or expensive meals), quieter suburbs with community open spaces.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been out of the city, go and catch a train or drive around these areas. There are some beautiful examples of houses from various architectural periods that have created fantastic local character.

I have lived in both London and Sydney and have spent a lot of time finding amazing little suburbs within built cities that provide access to high streets that don’t have high density residential buildings but rather boast small communities and friendly people, inexpensive cafes, character and atmosphere.

My top 5 affordable and undervalued neighbourhoods in Sydney:

  • Lakemba - 2 bed house with garage and backyard for rent under $500 per week and 40 mins from Lakemba station to Museum Station

  • Campsie - 2 bed house with garage and backyard for rent under $600 per week and 35 mins from Campsie station to Museum Station

  • Belmore - 2 bed house with garage and backyard for rent under $600 per week and 33 mins from Campsie station to Museum Station

  • Belfield - 2 bed house with garage and backyard for rent under $600 per week and 30 mins from Campsie station to Museum Station

  • Narwee - 2 bed house with garage and backyard for rent under $500 per week and 30 mins from Narwee station to Museum Station

Be great to hear from other people, what are your top undervalued suburbs?