Urban Development Institute of Australia
Established over 50 years ago in 1961, the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) has become the peak representative body for the urban development industry. Comprised of five state associations, they aim to both promote and represent their industry. They have grown into a national body, which is run by a council comprised of state delegates. “It took us nearly 15 years to establish a national office once the idea was first proposed,” says Peter Sherrie, the National President of the UDIA. “As a national body, our members are our state branches. We have no individual members. Our members are the states. We’re there to serve them on national issues,” he says.
Sherrie has been the UDIA President since 2009 and explains that each president has a two-year term. According to him, it is crucial that the president be an active developer, so that members can relate to them as the spokesperson for the UDIA. “It is important when talking to media or politicians, that you understand the development process,” says Sherrie. “One of our challenges is that people don’t really understand how our industry works. They don’t understand the risks associated, the delays, or the obstacles to carrying out our business. There is a clear lack of understanding of how our industry works.”
Challenges of the Industry
In addition to creating an understanding of the industry, the UDIA faces other major challenges. Sherrie explains the importance of the consumer from a development and market driving perspective. During hard economic times, affordability has become the most important issue. “Our biggest challenge is being able to bring a product on the market that people can afford,” says Sherrie. In attempting to deal with issues of affordability, builders have reduced their lot sizes, but Sherrie explains that this is only appealing to a certain sector of the market.
Another major challenge for the development industry is overregulation. “No other industry has its raw material supply legislated and regulated like our industry does,” says Sherrie. Despite these issues, Sherrie explains that it is a “very resilient industry, which has been overcoming adversity for years.”
Benefits of Membership
In addition to representation and the lobbying power from the UDIA, members receive several major benefits. Through their memberships they are able to influence the future direction of the industry, assist and improve industry practices, contribute to the development of policy at state and federal levels, receive support and advice, and achieve recognition through the UDIA National Awards for Excellence. In the early 1990’s, UDIA established the awards for eight different award development-specific categories.
As sustainability has grown in importance in recent years, the UDIA took action. “UDIA introduced its own scientifically-based branding system for sustainability, EnviroDevelopment. Developments may receive EnviroDevelopment certification across six defined categories (elements) of sustainability and are able to advertise the leaf icon of each element for which they have been accredited. By looking at the number of leaves a certain project has, consumers are able to make informed decisions regarding the sustainability of the project. “We created EnviroDevelopment and set up a technical standards committee,” says Sherrie. This committee controls the weighting of the projects, based on submissions by members. “By driving EnviroDevelopment, we are able to incorporate sustainability in our projects and design,” says Sherrie. This initiative challenges developers to take a proactive stance on sustainable development.
Green initiatives are only one of many initiatives that the UDIA has taken a stance on. In an effort to “professionalise” the industry, they have begun to educate university students. Different members lecture at universities and try to influence students about their potential future careers as developers.
The future of the UDIA
Sherrie explains that the industry is still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis. However, he is hopeful for the future of the UDIA and its members. “People are nervous coming out of the GFC. Once they feel their jobs are secure, they’ll go out and buy,” he says. Sherrie believes it will not be long before the GFC is a distant memory. “Hopefully we would have learned from our mistakes and Australia will be the great place that it is,” says Sherrie.