City West Stories – Paula

City West Stories – Paula

Paula, a retired CWH resident, has lived in the City of Sydney since she was born and watched the city evolve to what it is today.

When Paula, a nutritionist, and her husband, a geriatric nurse, were raising their five children in Kings Cross, the cost of housing and daily living expenses were substantially lower than what they are today. “It was a comfortable family life”, Paula reflects.

There weren’t many job prospects for women back then especially married ones. I was working at a local bar when a friend of one of the girls there asked me to come cook at her child care centre.”

Paula is one of many Australian’s who never bought property. “Raising five children and putting them through school, we never had the money to buy. That just wasn’t on the cards for us”, she states.


Life drastically changed for Paula when her husband passed away from cancer. While dealing with grief she was also faced with the reality of trying to survive on one income renting alone in the city. “We could do it together, but now things were impossible, I was paying three-quarters of my income to rent a small granny flat in Waterloo. That’s when a friend suggested applying for City West Housing.”

Paula applied to CWH, however, struggled to make ends meet in the meantime. “I called every week to find out how I was going on the waitlist. I was told there were developments in Green Square but they were some time away.” 

Paula’s time on the waitlist was a difficult one. Soon the landlord wanted the granny flat she was living in back and she found herself homeless, couch-surfing with friends.

“To work your whole life and have nothing to show for it, it really makes you question everything.” 

New Beginnings

Paula was eventually offered a home with CWH, “I accepted the apartment before I even saw it. My daughter and I waited nervously as they opened the door; we couldn’t believe how nice it was.”

Things have finally turned around for Paula, “After the years of hardship, it’s been six years of stability for me since having my CWH apartment.” Paula takes great pride in her home and reflects on how much her husband would have loved it, and the area.

At 70 years old, Paula walks over 10km a day, looping around the beautiful Green Square area. “I don’t want to be old and fat.” Paula jokes. She also volunteers, cooking for the local food bank and is involved heavily with her church.

Paula also talks about the stigma of affordable housing, “I was a nanny for two children for over ten years. When they were building my current apartments, they expressed they didn’t want those types of people moving in and affecting the property prices… They ate their words when I moved in.” 

Paula describes how people don’t understand the diversity of people in affordable housing. “We’ve got firefighters, nurses and teachers.” Paula also feels there needs to be more affordable housing available in the City of Sydney, “There’s a lot more people out there like me, who can’t afford to live where they’ve been their whole life.” 


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