Suburbs to live in Melbourne
March 29, 2016 11:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Melbourne from overseas in early May. While househunting I've been told that my list of suburbs is too long and I should choose about 4-5. Which 4-5 to choose?

I lived in Brisbane for 5-6 years and have been to Melbourne plenty of times, but I've never actually lived there. I'm currently overseas, doing some searching right now (and have some leads) though I am well aware that searching would be way easier for me if I was there in person.

I've mostly been choosing suburbs by looking at a map and seeing suburbs that are or are near places I've heard of, particularly more artsy or alternative areas, as well as some online research. One group tells me that some of my choices are "unsafe" and I should look at more affluent areas; another group tells me that some of my choices are "too expensive" (neither have told me which suburbs specifically they're talking about, but I wager that they're both talking about the exact opposite suburbs).

My main requirements are:
* Max $250/week | $1000/month with utilities and other things all up (which seems to be on the pricey end, mostly because I'm more used to Bay Area pricing)
* Very accessible to public transport, since I don't know how to drive or bike

I don't yet have a job - I have a few leads, and I'm actively searching, but again I feel like this would be far easier once I'm actually in the city. I'm looking for work mainly in arts/media/education/activism/tech/culture and related fields, so areas that have a vibrants arts, creative, or activist scene would be great.

I'm not fussy about the sort of neighbourhood I'm in, though I'm not much of a partier and probably have had my fill of student life (I graduated from grad school a couple of years ago). I'm looking for either my own room in a shared space or a one-bedroom/studio situation: at the most I could probably handle 2-3 more housemates, any more and it gets overwhelming. I'm open to slightly more unusual living situations, such as artist lofts, but it'll have to pass my other filters first.

Here are the suburbs I have so far:

St Kilda
Hawthorn East
East Melbourne
West Melbourne
Port Melbourne
Fitzroy North
posted by divabat to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
$250 Australian dollars?
posted by stellathon at 11:49 PM on March 29, 2016

Yes, which I know is on the high end, though I would prefer significantly lower (I've seen a lot of places for circa $200/week or around $850/month)
posted by divabat at 11:54 PM on March 29, 2016

You'll absolutely have to share at that budget, in those locations, just to set your expectations.
posted by ryanbryan at 12:02 AM on March 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm actually thinking that's low. $250pw might be okay in a share house but you won't find many 1br apartments for that in the 'nice' or 'cool' suburbs.

Sounds like you might like St Kilda or Fitzroy best.

Maybe find something temporary through Flatmates? Then take your time getting to know different neighbourhoods and maybe where will be most convenient for getting to whatever new job you find.
posted by stellathon at 12:07 AM on March 30, 2016

Yeah, $250 is kind of low, I'm very sorry to say. I think you're going to have to share or to go at least one step further out.

I live in Brunswick, and it's super-convenient to tram, train and bus. If you live right on the main drags (Brunswick, Sydney, Lygon) it is loud, but there are lots of tucked-away pockets of quiet. It is getting really expensive, because purchase prices in Brunswick are skyrocketing right now and there's a ton of new construction going in, lots and lots of older housing stock is being scraped off and replaced with units that are being snapped up for ridiculous prices and then rented out. Not all of the units are high-end, though, and there's still studenty houses in the neighborhood. But you will definitely have to share.

You might consider going a step further out to Coburg, which is on all the same public transit lines and isn't undergoing the great scraping at quite the same rate. It might even be possible to get by without sharing.

Me, I would give Southbank a miss, because there aren't enough services there (groceries, hardware stores, laundrettes), and Southbank proper is all high-rises and Packer's nightmare shopping mall, so it's not long on character. But your mileage may vary.
posted by gingerest at 12:13 AM on March 30, 2016

Those are all highly desirable suburbs. Agree with others that you will not be able to afford any of them on that budget without sharing. Probably the cheapest one you listed would be Footscray...I would imagine you could get some cheap places along st Kilda rd which might be considered Southbank. I agree with other posters that it is the one I would like the least. It's very corporate/touristy. Def not a community/arty/village feel.

You might like to look at or something similar and get a more realistic sense of what your budget will get you and come back? As I think it will be the key driver here.
posted by jojobobo at 12:20 AM on March 30, 2016

Yeah, no to Southbank from me too.
posted by stellathon at 12:40 AM on March 30, 2016

The median rent on all these suburbs other than Footscray is in the high 300s per week so a $250 budget is very low. Footscray is a cool place to live but can be a bit rough around the edges. Melbourne is very safe compared to any US city, I wouldn't worry about safety. If you're planning to share, $250 is a reasonable budget and for an arty community vibe I would start with Fitzroy, Carlton North, Brunswick, Northcote or Thornbury. Source: I live in Melbourne :)
posted by dave99 at 12:47 AM on March 30, 2016

My feeling is that what you are looking for boils down to inner north or inner west.

In the inner north, Fitzroy and Northcote are popular but gentrification might make it harder to fit the budget (Fitzroy North is also lovely, but expensive, although not to say you can't find a deal). Cheaper options may be Collingwood (still grittier than Fitzroy), Brunswick, Thornbury.

In the inner west, Footscray is probably the one people are saying is unsafe. Other friends say it is arty and vibrant. Both can be true. Yarraville has the village feel and the prices are pushing people towards Footscray instead. Seddon sits in the middle of the two.

I don't know what to say about the community/arty feel of either the South (Windsor, St Kilda). I feel like Cremorne (Richmond) and Hawthorn East not as strong in this as inner north/west, but willing to be corrected, although Abbotsford has the Abbotsford Convent (arts/community centre).

Consider dropping:
Carlton: close to the city and enjoyable in its own way, but a lot of the artsy stuff has moved out as it has become more expensive
Elwood: I like it, but the transport isn't as good as other options
West Melbourne: friends like it for proximity to the city and North Melbourne and it is perhaps cheaper, but they do not tell me of drawcards that would take you there aside from that
Melbourne: not village-y, although plenty going on
Port Melbourne: more limited transport options than other suggestions, perhaps a bit more affluent community

Take out
Parkville: mostly the home of Melbourne University, hospitals etc. Quiet - students generally live elsewhere
Southbank: very close to the city centre but otherwise too many large corporate style apartments
East Melbourne: very convenient to the city, but is a very quiet suburb and I don't think will have the sort of sharehouses you might enjoy
posted by AnnaRat at 12:51 AM on March 30, 2016

I'm not opposed to sharing! It's just that when I searched for share places in those areas (I haven't even looked at anything vaguely resembling a 1-bed), most of them barely broke the $200/week mark, which gave me the impression that for my budget sharing was more than doable. Am I wrong?
posted by divabat at 12:59 AM on March 30, 2016

Thornbury is lovely: cheaper than Northcote (though, yeah, definitely closer to $350/week solo, you could probably find $250 shared decently easily), just as conveniently located (quick tram/train/bike to the city) and lots of cafes, shops (including an amazing Greek market) and a few emerging art spaces.

Four years ago, with a buget of $400/week we were priced out of everything south of Northcote/Brunswick. I work in Collingwood and it's nice, but "gritty" is right.

There's enough of a difference between the north and south sides of the city that I'd spend a weekend in each before deciding. Can you Airbnb for a bit?
posted by third word on a random page at 1:11 AM on March 30, 2016

I live in Fitzroy (and rent my fully furnished spare room out for $275/week to short stayers) and am currently walking alone in Footscray. Footscray is a bit grittier, but I wouldn't go so far as to say unsafe. Fitzroy is gentrified tf but so very close to everything. Collingwood is fun and playful. I'm a bad advocate for Northcote and Thornbury because all of High st/86 tram line shits me a bit at the moment. Coburg and Brunswick and Footscray house a lot of the artists I know. I like parts of Richmond (Victoria street ftw) but proximity to transport will always win out for me.

There's a facebook group called Fairy Floss Real Estate in Melbourne that is good for finding a room in a slightly more out there share house. Also has lots of short term sublets if you want something for a month while you look around. I know of a couple of others that move further up the crunchy scale. Fuck, I have a fold out couch if it gets really bad.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 2:54 AM on March 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

At $250 a week or less you're definitely looking at sharing in most/all of those suburbs. Quite possibly even room-sharing in a few of them, which is probably not what you want. Agree that of the suburbs you listed Footscray is probably the cheapest. I lived there for some time, it has a rough reputation but I wouldn't be any more concerned about safety than in any other inner suburb of a major city.

I work in Carlton and I've got to be honest, although there is a lot to like about it I would not live there under any circumstances. You could reasonably easily find a share situation with students for your budget there, though. Fitzroy and Brunswick are IMO nicer, but more expensive.

I do think you should consider Northcote and Thornbury, although they are a little further from the CBD than most on your list. I live in Thornbury, in fact just around the corner from the Greek market third word on a random page mentions. We pay $350 a week for a 2 bedroom place, so I imagine you could find a share spot with 1-2 housemates for <$200 a week without too much trouble. I'll grant it's not a great suburb if you drive because traffic can be awful, but public transport isn't too bad and biking is great with the Merri Creek trail. Things like the new food truck park are beginning to attract more social life out this way, and developing the artsy vibe of the area, but it doesn't yet have the price tag of Fitzroy/Brunswick.
posted by lwb at 4:12 AM on March 30, 2016

Revising my earlier post: we weren't exactly priced out at $400/week, but the rental market here is crazy cutthroat, and it was a time versus money trade off. I don't know how Brisbane or the Bay Area compare in terms of finding an apartment, but I've waited in line for an hour for a 5-minute viewing where we had to decide on the spot if we were submitting an application. With more time, you'll probably be able to find something for cheaper.
(But yes, come to Thornbury, then we can have a Mefi meet up with lwb at Trumpy or Pallino's or Carwyn Cellars or any of the dozen of awesome little bars that have cropped up lately)
posted by third word on a random page at 5:13 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I suspect your thinking is going to evolve once you're here on the ground. I've been in Carlton for the last 11 years and it's a great place to live. There are nice, affordable two bedroom places in the $500-$600 / week range. The unit behind mine (a four unit building one block off Lygon just rented for $550.00. It had two ensuite bathrooms and a separate office and powder room. The last tenants were flatmates. I could fully imagine the person getting the office would pay $300 / week, thus hitting your budget. There are also a number of share houses within blocks of my place that could reduce your costs even more. There's a large student population in the area, but maybe more importantly, a large graduate student and young professional populations that prefer sharing with slightly older flatmates.

Carlton isn't a hive of creatives itself, true and Lygon street has a reputation as Little Italy, full of cheesy (ha!) restaurants. It still has some of that, but the top end of the street has changed a lot in the last 3-4 years.

It is centrally located to all the inner north communities and public transport couldn't be better. You might also want to check out the Walkscore for Carlton. I haven't owned a car for 5 years and have a chronic illness. I can get everything I need done within a one-block radius.

Enough barracking for my own suburb. I'm generally a fan of all the inner north suburbs and I don't think you'd go wrong with any of them. Feel free to memail me if you want more info.

And welcome to the area. It's about time to have a Melbourne Mefi meet up.
posted by michswiss at 11:40 PM on March 30, 2016

I am betting Footscray is one of the neighborhoods that got the thumbs-down for being "too dangerous" but I think that's mainly racism and classism - if you look up the statistics the worst area for crime is Melbourne proper, not the suburbs (e.g. Maribyrnong, which includes Footscray, Moreland, which includes Brunswick and Coburg, and Yarra). New immigrants from places other than Europe live in Footscray, and it's a less expensive, less gentrified neighborhood, so the neighborhood has really tasty food and faces that aren't white. It's also more affordable than most of the places on your list. I think the commute is probably a bit longer and more involved but since you don't know where you're going, yet, who knows?
posted by gingerest at 5:29 PM on March 31, 2016

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