Four renters, four cities, four budgets: Who can find the most affordable and liveable apartment?
We challenged four reporters to find somewhere to live for 30 per cent of the average household wage in their global cities.
Australian renters are paying more and more for their homes — but the rising cost is just one of the problems facing tenants.
The competition at inspections is fiercer, the quality of homes is patchy and stability of tenure can rarely be guaranteed.
But how do we compare to other global cities?
We set four ABC correspondents on a challenge: who can find the best apartment for their budget.
We’ve used the commonly used 30 per cent rule — that a home is “affordable” if you’re spending less than 30 per cent of your income on rent — and the median household income in each city to set our rental budget.
Median annual household income: $105,000 (US$70,663)
30 per cent of average weekly income for rent: $612 per week
Greenwich Village is quintessential NYC, as portrayed in some of your favourite TV shows (the "Friends" apartment is about a 10-minute walk away).
But just how expensive is it to rent in this part of town? I climb several flights of stairs to meet real estate agent Jennifer Saavedra at an apartment we might be able to afford.
Walking in, I'm immediately struck by how small it is. At around 14 square metres, there's room for a bed and not much else.
The "kitchen" is made up of a small sink and a bar fridge, although I'm told a small electric stove is being installed on the counter to cook with.
There's a large window, allowing lots of natural light into the space. But if I want air conditioning, I'll have to install a portable unit that could partially block that nice view.
As for the bathroom, there's a shower and a toilet down the hall, shared between five other units.
Jennifer acknowledges it might not be for everyone, but having lived in spaces like this herself, she says it's "sort of a rite of passage" for many moving to Manhattan.
There's no guarantee I'd be able to secure this place, though. She says we'd use my budget as a starting point for negotiations and offer to sign a longer lease to sweeten the deal.
Many of us have experienced living with housemates, whether they're friends or people we've found online.
But I've come to Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighbourhood to check out a different take on that model, dubbed "co-living".
This is sort of like a regular share house except there are a total of 160 people living in the building, split into four-bedroom apartments.
Each unit has a shared lounge room and kitchen, and two bathrooms.
The bedroom has space for a small couch and a desk, with a fairly steep staircase leading up to the loft-style bed.
The property comes furnished and common areas are cleaned weekly, meaning you should be able to avoid typical flat-mate tensions over whose turn it is to scrub the shower.
But you don't get to choose who you live with, locks aren't allowed on the doors for fire safety reasons, and you can't have anyone stay the night.
This kind of rental has been described by the New York Times as "dorms for adults".
"New York City is supply constrained, there's not a lot of housing available," said Eric Weisleder from co-living provider Outpost Club.
"So people know that they're going to have to share… What we provide and what people appreciate is you know that convenience."
The rent includes a flat utilities fee, and access to shared amenities like a theatre room and a rooftop.
But at the equivalent of around $780 per week, it's well over our budget.
Median annual household income: $72,792 (572,000 yen)
30 per cent of average weekly income for rent: $420 a week
Tokyo is home to some rather bizarre micro apartments, where a gas stove might be within arm's reach of the toilet. It's the kind of place a single, underpaid worker or student might rent. But the fact our budget was based on an average two-person income meant I could easily avoid the worse.
Walking into this 32-square-metre apartment felt much more open than I imagined. That's probably due to the lack of furniture, and that it had large south facing windows.
There was room for a small couch, television, fridge, tiny courtyard, and washer-dryer combo, which are the standard. It had a two-burner gas stove. The bedroom felt lopsided, with more space for clothing than the actual bed.
A key bonus of Japanese apartments is they almost always include a bath. Even if it's a bit small. Buttons on the wall will fill the bath up to a precise temperate. Another button reheats the water. The bath is in a "wet room", where you also shower and all the splish-splashing is contained. A bonus feature is wet rooms have a clothes drying function — a real space saver.
Could I live here? Absolutely.
But for two people? You better really enjoy their company.
The apartment felt more like the size I would expect in Australia.
An actual hallway, with two bedrooms, bathroom (aka wet room) and toilet off to the side, living area and kitchen at the end.
It came with a tatami room, which may be a blessing or a curse.
Tatami rooms are traditionally a place to relax or share a meal, while at night you set up some bedding stored in large cupboards. It added some traditional Japanese charm to the space, but tatami rooms are quickly going out of fashion. The straw mats are renowned for expensive upkeep and attracting mould.
The train station is 15 minutes away, which in Tokyo is considered far. Tachikawa is far from the action but the train station is a major hub. This means a "special rapid" train gets you into central Tokyo in only 25 minutes. Most trains are 40 minutes.
But being a "hub" has its downsides. Ever seen vision of train station attendants literally shoving people into a carriage like sardines? Yeah, that happens at Tachikawa station.
An affordable and comfortable space, more suitable to young "suburban" family.
Median annual household income: $87,101 (£43,931 pounds)
30 per cent of average weekly income for rent: $503
Shepherd's Bush used to be a haven for Australians.
The west London suburb once offered young Aussies who earned a pittance pulling pints a chance to live close to central London for an affordable price.
"SheBu" was also home to the famous Australian-themed pub, the Walkabout.
These days, the pub is gone and so are the bargains.
When agent Rupal Patel arranges a viewing at one of his cheapest available flats, I'm dreading what I might find.
Damp? Mould? Carpet in the bathroom? (It's a thing.)
As it turns out, the place is beautiful.
It smells of fresh paint and there are wooden floors in most of the rooms.
The bathroom is a good size with a decent-sized shower head and tasteful tiles.
The bedroom is quite small, but there's enough room for a double bed. There are no built-ins either but there's just enough space for a wardrobe or clothes hanger.
The kitchen is really big for a one-bedder with a gas cooktop, a full-sized dishwasher and a separate breakfast bar.
And there's even a shared concreted outdoor area out the back.
However, despite being among the cheapest flats in the area, it's way outside of the budget I've been set for this task.
I'm clearly going to have to lower my expectations.
This apartment is an amazing deal, at least at first glance.
There are two full-sized bedrooms, plus another smaller one which could be a study.
There's a light-filled living room and a small balcony.
None of the rooms have built-ins. One of them used to, but it's been torn out, leaving an unsightly void. There's plenty of room for a wardrobe, though.
There are timber laminate floors throughout which is a big plus.
To be honest, the bathroom is pretty dreadful. Just a bath, with no shower head. There is no mirror either, so, leave your vanity at the door! There's a separate toilet down the hall.
The kitchen is one of the biggest I've seen in London. The paint is uneven, the lino floor is badly worn and the benchtop has been slightly burnt, but there's plenty of space for appliances and food prep.
And now, the catch: The apartment will be redeveloped in the future, meaning whoever lives here could be given as little as 30 days to move out, at any time.
It's available under a guardianship program, which lets people live in unwanted buildings at major discounts, but it's certainly not for everyone.
Median annual household income: $108,004
30% of average weekly income for rent: $620 per week
I've got a $620 budget to try and find a place to live, working off the median income of a two-person household. For singles with half that budget, they'd probably have to settle for a one bedroom further out in western Sydney, or look for a house share.
My search leads me to Dulwich Hill, a suburb in Sydney's inner west, about 10 kilometres from Sydney's CBD. According to realestate.com.au, houses in the area are already out of my budget, with a median cost $820 a week. But I'm hopeful I can find a unit, with the median rental price of $550 per week.
My first stop is a split level apartment in the centre of Dulwich Hill with two-bedrooms, two bathrooms and one parking spot.
There are about a dozen groups looking through the place, which already makes me nervous for my search. The ground floor has a bathroom, a reasonably sized living room, a second room, as well as a kitchen and internal laundry. It's about three in the afternoon and the first thing I notice is how much light is coming through. There's also a pool in the complex.
Upstairs I find a massive bedroom with a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite. If budget was no concern, it would definitely be a strong contender. But I'm out of luck.
Real estate agent Angelo Lofitis tells me it's $680 per week, $60 over budget.
"Before COVID or during COVID, it was sub $600," he said. "There are a lot of modern properties that are renting in the moment in this area. And they range from about $650 all the way up to $800 for two bedroom and two bathroom. This is probably one of the most inferior of the most modern with two bathrooms. So we priced it at $680."
Next in my search is another two bedroom unit in Dulwich Hill, about a 10-minute walk away from the first.
It's much smaller than the other property I looked at. Walking through is a modest living room, small but newly renovated kitchen, and hardwood floors. Not too bad. But… the bathroom looks like it never left the '70s. There's a small balcony and access to a yard outside.
As I walked through the unit, I noticed there were at least seven parties also interested in the property. Lofitis tells me this wouldn't have been the case prior to COVID. "It would have struggled to actually rent out, but now we're seeing this as being a very popular property."
At $540, it's within my budget. But, as always, there's a catch.
The competition. The property rents out immediately after the inspection. So while I had some luck in finding something within my budget, it didn't necessarily mean I was guaranteed to get a place.
This is the second article in a series looking at Australia’s rental market and how we stack up against the rest of the world. You can read the first story here and watch What Broke The Rental Market? now on ABC iView.
Words: James Oaten, Nick Dole, Angelique Lu and Jade Macmillan
Production: Leigh Tonkin
Graphics: Gabrielle Flood, Ario RasouliMedian annual household income: 30 per cent of average weekly income for rent:1 bed, shared bath, no parkingPrice: Pro: Con: 1 bed, shared bath, no parkingPrice: Pro:Con: Median annual household income: 30 per cent of average weekly income for rent: 1 bed, 1 bath, 0 parkingPrice: Pro: Con:2 bed, 1 tatami room, 1 bath, 0 parkingPrice:ProCon: Median annual household income: 30 per cent of average weekly income for rent: 1 bed, 1 bath, no parkingPrice: Pro:Con:2.5 bed, 1 bath, no parkingPrice:Pro: Con: Median annual household income: 30% of average weekly income for rent: Two bedroom, two bathroom, one parking spotPrice:Pro: Con:Two bedroom, one bathroom, no parkingPrice:Pro: Con: This is the second article in a series looking at Australia’s rental market and how we stack up against the rest of the world. You can read the first story here and watch What Broke The Rental Market? now on ABC iView.Words: Production: Graphics: