The 1992 film Romper Stomper paints a very insightful picture of a cultural melting pot suburb in inner Melbourne named Footscray. The film itself follows the working-class tensions between neo Nazis and local minorities of Vietnamese heritage. Footscray’s reputation didn’t improve much into the new millennium, carrying with it a reputation of violence, crime and squalor.
Interestingly, as the Australian population has trended toward having a higher proportion of overseas-born residents, Footscray has actually gone in the opposite direction. Over a ten-year period, Footscray’s Australian-born population increased by almost 60 per cent.
The 2016 census told us that white-collar employment (professionals and managers) in Footscray still trails considerably behind comparable suburbs like Collingwood, although it is increasing significantly on past years. It is evident through much of the data that Footscray is indeed in the process of gentrification, whether the locals like it or not. This is further supported by major infrastructure initiatives for the suburb that would not have been viable just five years ago.
While Australia’s median weekly income increased by 42 per cent between 2006 and 2016, Footscray’s increased by 77 per cent. There are an extra 2,200 homes than ten years prior, and many of those moving in are affluent young professionals.
What is perhaps most fascinating is the difference in price between new property in Footscray versus comparable suburbs in other directions from the Melbourne CBD. With a considerably lower premium some property developers are able to express more flexibility and creativity with their constructions, arguably producing some of the most liveable designs within the inner-city circle. All the while, derelict and abandoned commercial property is being snapped up and converted into boutique restaurants, cafes and bars to service the surging demographic.
With Footscray’s train station just a ten minute journey from Melbourne Central, the equivalent travel time of Redfern to Wynyard in Sydney, the improving lifestyle amenities also fit well with convenience to the workplace.
Having a larger, more affordable home surrounded by the newest bars and restaurants in town and just ten minutes from work will continue to be attractions too good to pass up for those lucky enough to take advantage. This supply and demand function will be the main driver of change in the Footscray market over the coming years. It will be fascinating to watch.