Housing a Nation

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With a population fast approaching 22 million, the need for accessible housing in Australia is becoming urgent. As one of the most urbanised countries on the planet, an estimated 16 million Australians – about 80 per cent – reside in the country’s cities and towns. In the next two decades, it is estimated the number of urban Australians will increase to at least 20 million as the national population continues to climb.

For many decades, Australia was a nation of homeowners, but in recent years, issues of affordability have undermined the dream of many families: to have a house to call their own. One pioneering organization addressing the need for more affordable housing across the nation is the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA). “What we’re finding all around Australia at the moment is that we’re having a real affordability crisis with land, and bringing land onto the market,” says Peter Sherrie, National President for UDIA. “When you look at the supply and demand economics, we’ve had strong population growth. We’ve got low unemployment, we’ve got a booming resources sector, so what really has been identified is that it’s a supply-side issue, not so much of a demand-side issue.”

Although there have been a number of incentives offered to Australians to encourage new home purchases, such as the first-time buyer’s grant and the stimulus package, there is still a shortfall in affordable new homes. “If you’re fueling demand, and doing nothing about supply, the immediate thing that happens is that prices go up.”

A Voice for the Nation

The issue of home ownership for all Australians remains a key focus for the UDIA, a not-for-profit industry body representing the nation’s development industry. A federation of five state associations, the UDIA serves as an essential voice nation-wide for Australia’s growth and development, particularly in regard to initiatives for home buyers and professionals in urban development. By taking an active role in government decisions and policy-making processes on all levels affecting the building industry, the UDIA continues to advance the interests of its many members through lobbying, communication and research.

Established in 1961, the UDIA has grown in strength and membership over the decades. First established in New South Wales, it now has offices in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland. In 1971, the national office was established to operate as an umbrella body. Today, the UDIA’s annual National Congress is a significant industry event, often attended by over 1,000 delegates from across the country.

“It started up as a lobby group for land developers,” says Sherrie of the institute, born at a time when land development began to boom across Australia, when cars became more accessible, and when people could travel further distances with greater ease. “We saw an explosion in the development of the suburbs, and in major cities around Australia.” Over time, however, Australia saw an increase in obstacles to land development, along with greater restrictions and higher costs to home buyers; it became clear that all of the UDIA’s members needed a voice. The UDIA speaks for those members from an apolitical, non-biased platform, and has built solid, positive relationships with various levels of government. “When they’re looking at introducing new legislation, we’re always contacted, and they run it past us,” says Sherrie. “Now, we’re trying to establish that same position on a national level.”

Along with advancing the credibility of the urban development industry, the UDIA’s policy priorities include housing affordability, land supply, taxes and charges, climate change, provision and cost of infrastructure, and planning system reform and consistency. At the same time, the institute works to serve the interests of its membership, cooperates and works with representatives in the urban development industry, lobbies all three levels of government, and educates the public and members on subjects relevant to the urban development industry through educational seminars and conferences.

Strength in Numbers

“UDIA is all about representing its members in a professional and credible way,” says Sherrie. “It’s about really looking at the interests of the Australian community… we want to be able to provide good quality, highly sustainable, environmentally-friendly developments moving forward.” At present, there are thousands of members across Australia, with the largest group based in Queensland. They come from many different sectors of the industry, and include developers, consultants, planners, engineers, surveyors, architects, banks, major contractors and builders.

To join UDIA, prospective members can go to their local state branch to determine which category they fit into. From there, they must be nominated by two existing members, and the membership application then goes to the council meeting to be endorsed. The benefits of membership are many. In addition to helping influence the future direction of Australia’s urban development industry and improve practices, UDIA members engage in professional development through seminars, conferences and UDIA National Congress. The UDIA also keeps members up-to-date on their industry through newsletters, and provides them with a platform from which to build business relationships, promote their products and services, network with other members, and receive industry-wide recognition through the UDIA Awards.

Introduced in the early 1990s, the annual National Awards for Excellence acknowledge excellence in a number of categories, such as Master Planned Development, Residential Development, Medium Density Housing, High Density Housing, Urban Renewal, Environmental Excellence, Affordable Development, Seniors Living, and the President’s Award. Winners of the major annual State Awards for Excellence are nominated by UDIA State offices to become finalists in the National Awards.

In many ways, being a member of the UDIA is its own reward, with members well-situated to get involved in matters relevant to their industry. As a lobby group, UDIA has a number of organised committees focusing on key issues, including planning legislation and the environment. “Queensland itself has about ten or fifteen committees, made up of volunteers, and they are very well-supported,” says Sherrie. “There’s a real sense of camaraderie in our industry, and people who have benefited from the industry like to give back, and that’s what gives UDIA its successes.”

Coming up this spring, the UDIA National Congress will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre from March 28th to 31st. The congress will combine programming with significant opportunities for delegates to network, learn from industry leaders, socialise, and enjoy the sights and sounds of one of Australia’s finest tourist areas. The theme, “Where Ideas Take Flight,” is fitting, as it furthers the UDIA’s goals of moving the nation’s development industry forward, with affordable housing remaining a central focus.

Taking a Stand

“As the preeminent voice for the development industry in Australia, we want to consult with all levels of government and green groups to make sure we get an outcome that is going to result in fantastic communities for the Australian people,” says Sherrie. It is clear that the UDIA does not take this position lightly; its lobbying efforts are informed by in-depth research and participation in government stakeholder groups, and supported by formal submissions and papers. Unafraid to take a stand on what it considers to be key issues facing Australian communities, the UDIA makes its policy statements and position papers available to the public, taking a clear stance on all key development issues and speaking strongly to the need for thoughtful, well-planned development at all levels.

A strong organisation requires strong leadership, and Peter Sherrie himself comes to his position as National President with a wealth of experience in the field. A civil engineer by profession, Sherrie worked as a land development manager prior to joining the UDIA in 1992. Appointed a representative for his company, Sherrie was soon elected onto the UDIA’s state council. From there, he headed a task force dealing with the state government on the introduction of new planning legislation, served as UDIA’s Queensland president from 2004 to 2006, became a senior member on the national council, and was elected National President in 2009, for a two-year term. “The national council is made up of two representatives from each of the states around Australia,” says Sherrie. “We’re able to pull in what all the key issues are with Australia, and address those. Any issues that need to be addressed to the national level, we have all that intellect and collateral that we can pull together, and use to lobby at the national level.”

As passionate proponents of the country’s development industry, Peter Sherrie and the Urban Development Institute of Australia continue to look to the future with an eye toward sustainable growth, equity, accessibility, and well-structured, well-thought out policy.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

November 21, 2018, 3:45 AM AEDT