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As Celebrities Like Chris Hemsworth Have Moved To Byron Bay, Locals Speak Out About Being Priced Out

Chris Hemsworth in trailer for Shark Beach, Nat Geo
(Image credit: National Geographic)

It’s been over a year since some Australian locals spoke out about celebrities moving en masse to their hometown of Byron Bay. Initially, some locals shared their feelings about celebrities like Chris Hemsworth coming in to live and play, noting that locals were “off ‘em.' (Taika Waititi had a similar sentiment.) Now, a little over one year later, things in Byron Bay, Australia seem to be a little more dire, as some locals are now saying they’ve been priced out of areas and homes and have nowhere to go… at least nowhere that isn’t prone to flooding and vulnerable to fires.  

In a new report over at Vice, the seaside town sporting homes for Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky, among other major names, may seem charming at the outset. However, over the past several years, many locals in the area have been driven out of Byron Bay and into the surrounding areas given rapidly-changing real estate prices in the area.

This is a common story in areas when money is driven in, where those who cannot afford increasingly high property values are driven out, but it’s reportedly particularly stark with Byron Bay, as the surrounding areas have seen devastation from floodwaters and more. One former local, who spoke with the outlet, shared that she had lived on the outskirts of the city until the wealthier locals came in. She was forced to move into an area prone to floods, Mullumbimby, where in February she lost everything but a small suitcase of clothing, sheets, and the scissors she uses to cut hair. 

For now that woman, former Byron Bay local Jessica May, is living with her son out of a van one of her clients lent her. She said she’ll need to formerly relocate to another area of Australia completely when she can afford to make the move, noting: 

​​I have enough now to set up a small camp, which is what I'm going to do with a camper van and go back to work. I'm going to relocate to the Gold Coast. And you know why? Because I can't afford to pay $1,200 fucking rent in Byron.

While Chris Hemsworth moved to the seaside town long before the pandemic began – he and Elsa Pataky left Hollywood and relocated back in 2014 – a lot of celebrities relocated during the pandemic. This includes Zac Efron, who allegedly met his former girlfriend Vanessa Valladares there, and Matt Damon, who liked it so much he hunkered down in Byron Bay while filming Thor: Love and Thunder during Covid-19. Hemsworth and Pataky relocated to Sydney in 2021, but still reportedly spend some weekends in Byron Bay. 

Even film productions have moved into the area, as reports indicate Nine Perfect Strangers with Melissa McCarthy and Nicole Kidman filmed there. A Netflix series about influencers Byron Baes also calls the town home.

In some ways this has likely been a boost for the local economy, but not for everyone who lives there. Given its ideal beach location, property values have skyrocketed, with reports noting the average house price in the community is north of $3 million dollars at this point. The house Matt Damon rented while filming Thor: Love and Thunder, for an additional example, allegedly cost him $100,000 for a mere two weeks of living. That's around $7K per night for an eight-bedroom home located in Knockrow, just outside of Byron Bay proper.

Between 2020 and 2021, the median house price in the area jumped from  $1.42 million to $2.7 million. Or as one local told Vice: “The billionaires are pushing the millionaires out."

Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.