The story - there were 15 or so "artists" living in a run down house in a very posh suburb in the eastern suburbs, until the owners finally got around to doing the place up and kicked them out. The house was so decrepit, they were paying $500 per week.
That warmed the cockles of my heart. In my younger days, I too spent years crammed into low rent flea pits with all manner of neer-do-wells. It took me back to a time when I was carefree and had enough cash in my pocket for at least two raucous nights out per week. At one point in the late 1990s, I spotted an ad in the paper for a very large, relatively cheap house at Bondi. It was obviously a dump, and it would have required 7 or 8 people to live in it to afford the rent of about $100 a week each. I was sorely tempted to take the lease and then fish around and collect a gaggle of bums to share the place.
It's a problem faced by aspiring young creative people across the city: how to afford to pursue an artistic career in Sydney, rated this year by The Economist as the world's third-most expensive city after Tokyo and Osaka?Ah, those were the days.
The City of Sydney is proposing one answer. The council is pushing to have artists included in the definition of ''key workers'' - a category traditionally limited to low-income public sector workers who provide essential city services such as police, nurses, teachers and paramedics. The change would make artists eligible to apply for the limited supply of affordable housing set aside for key workers.
''There's all kinds of workers that a city needs, and not all of them will earn $100,000 a year but they are still crucial to city infrastructure and city liveability,'' Rachel Healy, who runs the council's cultural policy, says. Even established artists often earn well below the average wage, and ''there's a strong view that artists should be recognised as key workers''.
While all young people are hit by the high cost of housing in Sydney, there are strong economic and cultural arguments to help early-career creative artists to stay in the city, Healy says.
The creative industries contribute $8.2 billion to the city economy, and the sector is growing faster than all other industries, according to a recent state government draft report.
Creative people contribute much to the liveability of a city, and that cultural overlay helps attract mobile, educated graduates from all industries, Healy says. If creatives are priced out of the city, ''the overall experience of Sydney is profoundly compromised,'' she says. ''It's a very different kind of problem than, 'Oh well, it's just a bit sad that it's only the lawyers and accountants live here'.''
Anyway, how is a struggling artist supposed to make do in an expensive place like Sydney?
Simple - do what we did. Grow up and get a fucking job.