The Housing Industry Association (HIA) is Australia’s largest residential building organisation and the voice of Australia’s residential building industry. With more than 40,000 members, HIA plays a lead role in advocating for regulatory and business environment that supports the provision of appropriate and affordable housing to all Australians.
Membership of the HIA includes builders, trade contractors, design professionals, kitchen and bathroom specialists, manufacturers and suppliers. HIA provides a range of services to members including training, safety services and industrial advice, as well as a number of commercial products such as insurance, contracts, stationary and a group apprenticeship scheme.
The HIA’s origins can be traced back to the Melbourne suburb of Ormond in 1945 – just after the end of the Second World War. Two local builders, Bill Hunt and Perce Newton, had a chance meeting outside a real estate agent’s office where both bought blocks to build ‘spec’ houses. The pair commiserated over the difficulties of building at the time, and the lack of an organisation that was prepared to represent and fight for them. They decided to start such an organisation themselves, and the Builders and Allied Trades Association (BATA) was formed at a follow-up meeting the next year.
By 1949, less than three years after their formation, BATA had registered their 1,000th member. Each member paid an annual membership fee of two guineas. Between 1960 and 1963, Victorian President David Thomson and the Chief Executive, Cyril Bennett, travelled around the country to canvass the idea of a national association. As a result, the Housing Industry Association came to fruition in June 1965.
Fighting for the industry
One of the most important issues that the industry is currently facing is the level, and inefficiency, of taxation on the residential building sector. HIA recently released one of the most significant pieces of research into this issue, called Taxation of the Housing Sector, which was undertaken by the Centre for International Economics (CIE).
“In Sydney, the taxation component of the price paid for a house and land package can be up to 44 per cent, and it’s a similar story around other capital cities,” explains Shane Goodwin, HIA’s Managing Director. “The main problem is that the types of taxes that are placed on housing usually fall on the homebuyer, and they are inefficient and they constrain labour mobility – and therefore productivity.”
“Invariably, it is housing affordability for Australian families that suffers as a result.”
Australia is also currently experiencing a housing shortage, rendering it unable to meet the housing demands of a growing population, Goodwin explains. “The accumulated shortage of housing in Australia now is around 180,000 dwellings. This is expected to significantly rise by 2020 if population grows at the projected rate and the level of home building continues on its long-term average.”
“Experience from overseas has shown that without access to affordable housing, people are unable to contribute to society to their potential, or even participate at all, and an extreme consequence of this is social unrest,” he adds. “This is an issue all governments will have to tackle in the next 10 to 15 years if policies aren’t put in place to improve affordability and access to housing.”
The enormity of the challenge facing policy makers to ensure that Australia meets the community’s housing needs is reflected in the current level of home building, which Goodwin describes as being at recessionary levels.
“This year it is expected that a total of 135,000 homes and apartments will be built – which is a number significantly lower than underlying demand requires,” he says. “We should be building at least 165,000 houses a year and we’re not.”
The contribution of residential building to the economy should not be underestimated either, according to Goodwin, with the predominantly small business character of the industry making it an important driver of direct and indirect jobs. He says that new independent research released by HIA in November demonstrates how improvements in productivity in the sector can drive growth in the wider economy.
“For every dollar generated in construction from improvements in productivity, GDP as a whole rises by $4.75. That has the potential to add $2.36-million to GDP each year,” he explains.
To accomplish the required improvements in productivity, HIA works closely with the government at all levels, with the reduction of red and green tape being the priority for the industry. Duplication of environmental approvals, planning delays and ATO reporting requirements for contactors are just three simple examples of the unnecessary red tape tying up the industry with no discernible benefit to the community, says Goodwin.
“Improving government policy is an incremental process, and doesn’t always happen as quickly as we would like or it should,” he says. “But we are in it for the long haul.”
“The strength of our arguments, which are underpinned by sound research, is the key to influencing policy and why we have had so much success in the past.”
Recognising the best
Goodwin cites the annual Housing Awards as one of the more enjoyable aspects of the Housing Industry Association’s work. Despite the social side of the events, however, he emphasises that they are serious business for the hundreds of entrants each year.
The awards provide members the opportunity to receive recognition for outstanding workmanship, design and innovation in the dwellings they build, and also for their professionalism on and off the worksite.
“The Australian Housing Awards are the industry’s oldest awards,” Goodwin says. “There is strong support of both the entrants and the manufacturers and suppliers.”
The awards process commences at a regional level throughout Australia, with winners progressing to the national event, all the way being judged by a highly experienced team of industry peers. The process is year-long.
“The awards are major events on the industry’s calendar,” says Goodwin. “The winner gets the kudos and recognition, which they rightly take a lot of pride from. We promote them heavily for the rest of the year through our building news, housing magazines and websites.”
“The awards are quite prestigious and highly competitive, and can be a real bonus when a recipient is marketing their business,” he adds.
Parallel to the National Housing Awards, HIA also conducts the GreenSmart Awards, which recognise environmentally-friendly dwellings, innovation and techniques. “GreenSmart is an HIA program that has been running since 1999, and trains builders and associated professions in environmentally sustainable design and building techniques,” Goodwin explains. “Having a dedicated GreenSmart awards programs ensures that the innovation that flourishes in this sector gets the recognition it deserves.”
Goodwin reports that about 90 per cent of Australia’s are homes built by HIA members. This underlines their importance as a trade association, and shows just how competitive the Housing Awards can be – if a builder wins one, it truly means they are exemplary.