Finding affordable commercial spaces to rent in Sydney isn’t easy, but the City of Sydney is doing its best to offer an alternative. Since 2012 it has offered a number of low-cost office, studio and retail spaces to local creatives as part of its Oxford Street Creative Spaces program. After a successful first wave of three-year leases, the application for new tenants is now open.

The program makes otherwise vacant council-owned properties available to businesses that can add creativity and culture to the area, while also boosting the local economy. From 2016 to 2018 there will be 14 creative offices and five retail spaces available. The expression of interest is open to artists, creative entrepreneurs and cultural community organisations.

Scale Architecture is one of the original tenants leaving at the end of the year. “[Leaving] is a little bit sad; it’s been a really great space for us,” says founder Matt Chan. Before Oxford Street it was based in Surry Hills. “After the recession hit I had to work from home for a few months. Then this came up and it allowed us to reopen a proper office.”

For Ben Elbourne of The Fourtynine object design studio, Creative Spaces gave it a chance to build a business from the ground up. “We couldn’t afford commercial rent, so we wouldn’t have even thought about opening a studio,” says Elbourne. “Over the three years we’ve been able to build a business from nothing.”

Applicants will also be assessed on how their tenancies will benefit the community. “You have to demonstrate what you can give back to the city and why your particular business is going to make a difference to the creative hub,” says Chan. “It’s a great opportunity for businesses in transition, or starting up, to have affordable rent.”

Submissions close 5pm Wednesday September 16. For full details on how to apply, subscribe to the expressions of interest newsletter here.