Political Alert – Planning delivery unit must deliver (NSW)

Wednesday 01 July 2020 (Sydney, Australia) – UDIA NSW Chief Executive, Steve Mann, welcomed todays announced Planning Delivery Unit.

The development sector is essential to the recovery post COVID-19 as it contributes one quarter of the jobs in NSW. Mr Mann said resolving planning delays is critical for the sector to restock a pipeline of projects, homes, and jobs.

“Many precincts have been long delayed in delivery and this One-Stop-Shop must unlock these major projects”

“The initial focus on Parramatta Road will finally unlock a precinct that has been quagmire since the finalisation of the Parramatta Road Urban Transformation Strategy in 2016.

“The St Leonards Crows Nest Precinct is a vital city shaping opportunity and rezoning now will leverage the transit-oriented development opportunity the metro provides.

“In our greenfield growth areas Marsden Park North and West Schofields are vital precincts to continue the growth in the North West.

“These are all big projects and it is critical that they are resolved to help restock the housing pipeline. However, they must not distract from the urgent need for the Planning Delivery Unit to help development assessment and unclog concurrence and referrals.

“Over the past four years approval times have blown out 100 days for DAs over $20 million to 357 Days. Despite the number of development approvals falling to 33,936 in the year to April, a 44% drop since the peak in 2016.

“The UDIA will be seeking to work closely with the Planning Delivery Unit Chief Kiersten Fishburn and her team to ensure that the development pipeline is restocked and approvals flow.

“The critical test for the team will be to get early results, and a necessary step to making planning work in NSW.

 

– ENDS –

Media Contact: Sam Stone 0401 213 899 media@udiansw.com.au

A Critical Win for Housing Development In Sydney

23 June 2020 (Sydney, Australia) – UDIA NSW Chief Executive, Steve Mann, welcomed today’s announcement that the s7.11 contribution cap in the Hills and Blacktown will be extended to 31 December 2020 at an increased rate of $50,000.

“The cost certainty for developers will enable the industry to continue to deliver housing supply in the North West,” said CEO Steve Mann.

Infrastructure contributions, better known as s7.11 contributions, or the former s94 contributions, are currently capped at $45,000 until next week on 1 July 2020. This announcement means the NSW Government has a set a new cap on contribution rates at $50,000 in Blacktown and The Hills council areas until the end of 2020, which could have doubled to over $100,000 per lot in some areas.

“This extension means the industry has avoided a doubling of developer contributions in North Western Sydney during one of the largest economic challenges of our time,” said Mr Mann.

UDIA NSW identified the opportunity to repurpose the AIF to deliver a double dividend and has worked with the Department of Planning to achieve:

  1. Funding local infrastructure to create jobs on the ground, and
  2. Support an extension of the cap on development contributions to deliver more jobs and housing supply.

To take advantage of the extension, developers will be required to commence construction by the 30 June 2021. UDIA believes this may need to be extended to achieve the sustained housing-led recovery we all want to see beyond COVID-19.

Even with contributions capped at $50,000, taxes and charges represent a growing percentage of the costs of new housing, now up to 30% of the total price of a new home in Western Sydney.

“We estimate this measure will support the delivery of between 1,600 and 2,500 residential lots across Blacktown and the Hills creating between 4,800-7,500 jobs,” said Mr Mann.

Earlier this year, the Productivity Commissioner announced a review into infrastructure contributions will be completed by the end of 2020.

“We keenly await the outcomes of the Achterstraat Review, and will call on the government to implement appropriate reform quickly, and before the end of the AIF to prevent further loss of jobs from our industry due to a dwindling supply pipeline,” said Mr Mann.

The NSW Government also announced an additional $75 million in Accelerated Infrastructure Funding to unlock nearly $70 million in developer contributions to put local community infrastructure on the ground. UDIA NSW has previously reported there is over $2.65 billion in developer contributions sitting with Local Councils across Greater Sydney, the Illawarra and the Hunter Region.

– ENDS –

Media Contact: Mia Kwok media@udiansw.com.au 0435 361 697

UDIA National Update on Federal HomeBuilder Stimulus for New Housing

The Commonwealth Government has today released some updated information on the detailed design and application of its stimulus “HomeBuilder” package to support the housing and construction sector recover from the economic effects of COVID-19.

Over the past two weeks, UDIA has been in liaison with the Housing Minister’s office outlining a range of practical issues that needed to be addressed based on our assessment of the eligibility criteria and feedback from the industry.

The new guidance – available at https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/homebuilder – seeks to clarify some of the issues relating to the eligibility rules applying to the package.

Unfortunately, substantial risks remain that the eligibility criteria exclude large sections of the industry and gaps in the level of information required – plus a potential level of discretion left to the states.

The main three new elements dealt with in the guidance include:

  • Greater clarification around the eligibility of spec homes under the scheme, with homes commencing post June 4 potentially eligible where a contract is signed within the appropriate window (between 4 June and 31 December 2020)
  • Expansion on the mechanisms applying to off-the-plan sales of apartments and townhouses – though it is still likely to apply to a very limited range of projects given the limited timeframe in which construction needs to commence
  • Some information suggesting the states will have discretion to waive the three months construction commencement window where planning delays occur

Apart from the above, there is still an absence of critical information on the design and application of the scheme and how it affects large parts of the housing and construction sector – from different housing types, to contractual arrangements, and other issues.

Some of the key areas that still need to be addressed include:

  • Absolute clarity that the criteria articulated on off-the-plan apartment and townhouse projects fully recognise the common practice in the industry where the homebuyer has a contract with the developer, but not the builder;
  • Ensuring the timeframes are sufficiently flexible to capture projects which were on the verge of being commenced, or notionally commenced – but may technically fall foul of the June 4 start date;
  • Extending the 90-day timeframe to recognise that the spectrum of housing products in the market – from house-and-land to multi-unit apartments – won’t all easily meet the 90-day timeframe requirements;
  • Providing clarification on the definition of ‘commencement of construction’
  • Ensuring the provisions around spec housing don’t have the unintended effect of disadvantaging projects already under development for products that remain unsold;
  • Removing the risk that buyers break existing house-and-land package contracts for building contracts entered into prior to 4th June;
  • Understanding limitations on the price thresholds will make eligibility difficult in some major capital cities.

There are also a host of other issues requiring resolution and clarification.

UDIA National is disappointed this feedback has not been dealt with and will be writing to and discussing with the Commonwealth to make clear what is needed to resolve both constraints in the scheme’s design, as well as gaps in technical information and definitions.

We will also be reinforcing to Government the urgency of resolving these issues to ensure there is no unintended logjam of decision-making across industry and homebuyers.

Simon Basheer

UDIA National President

 

Lost momentum in property market has UDIA NSW calling for NSW Government to provide stamp duty concessions

Thursday 18 June 2020 (Sydney, Australia) – The UDIA | Urbis Home Purchaser Sentiment Survey data, released today, has tracked the shift in sentiment of home purchasers in Greater Sydney.

The report shows a downward shift in sentiment since the last survey with increased pessimism around purchasing property in the next 12 months. The softening in sentiment was however relatively moderate, suggesting cautious optimism by prospective purchasers in the medium-term fundamentals of the Sydney property market.

“Given the timing of the survey, which coincided with major Government announcements, and the fact that we did not see a dramatic decline in sentiment since the survey in July 2019, it is clear that signals from Government at all levels are critical to bring about confidence in the property market,” said Associate Director of Urbis Kylie Newcombe.

UDIA NSW has indicated in their March Project Bounce Back’ that a long-term government strategy on stimulus was necessary with consideration over the next 24 months due to the long lead times on new housing builds.

UDIA NSW has previously stated that the Federal Government HomeBuilder stimulus package will have limited application in Greater Sydney due to the $750,000 cap. The average pricing for house and land packages in Sydney exceeds the cap. There is also limited application for off-the-plan sales and any greenfield lots which do not already have titling in place.

UDIA NSW has this week renewed calls for a $25,000 stamp duty discount for new and off-the plan sales for the next twelve months regardless of whether a purchaser is a first-home buyer or not.

“More than half of all residents in the UDIA-Urbis Home Purchaser Sentiment Survey believe changes to stamp duty will give them confidence in the property market,” said Steve Mann, chief executive UDIA NSW.

“Other states have sought to expand their own programs following the Federal Government’s program, leaving NSW lagging behind,” said Mr Mann.

“With our industry currently employing a quarter of NSW, we need the State Government to support this Federal Stimulus package with stimulus of their own which will fill the gaps,” said Mr Mann.

– ENDS –

Media Contact: Mia Kwok 0435 361 697 media@udiansw.com.au

UDIA | Urbis Survey Report – June 2020 Backgrounder

Five Survey Highlights

 

  1. Moderate shift in sentiment since July 2019 – 52% are positive about purchasing in the current market, down from 57% from August
  2. There was a more downward shift when considering whether it was a good time to buy through an investor lens. 32% were negative compared with 19% negative when making an assessment through an owner occupier
  3. Residents appear to view the impacts on property prices as short term. Half believe prices will be lower in 6 months’ time with the majority (63%) expecting prices will be higher in 18 months’
  4. The impact on searching for property has seen 22% of residents putting their search on hold since COVID-19 lockdowns, most of whom are casual
  5. There is strong support for stamp duty reform as a tool to improve confidence among homeowners and some renters. 54% of renters said First Home Owner targeted polices would impact positively on their confidence.

 

Top Five Preferred Suburbs to live in:

Residents were given five options for choosing which suburb they would most like to live in. These results show the top suburbs for most mentions in the 2019 and 2020 survey.

  1. Parramatta
  2. Castle Hill
  3. Chatswood
  4. Blacktown
  5. Balmain

 

 

About Urbis

At Urbis, we have one simple goal – to shape cities and communities for a better future. It’s something we achieve by drawing together a network of the brightest minds. Think of Urbis as a creative community of practice experts, working collaboratively to deliver fresh thinking and independent advice – all backed up by real, evidence-based solutions.

 

About UDIA NSW

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) NSW is the state’s leading development industry body, representing more than 500 member companies and agencies across the public and private sector.

 

Media UDIA Urbis Home Purchaser Sentiment Survey_16 June 2020

Staying sane while staying apart

If you work in property, development and construction, chances are that when you think of the health, well-being and safety of your team, you might understandably first think of hard hats and hi-vis vests. But what lies beneath needs as much attention – our mental health.

While COVID-19 has quite rightly pushed the issue into the spotlight and prompted a $48M Federal Government investment in services like Lifeline and Kids Helpline, mental health is a constant and not just in the midst of a global crises. While many of us shy away from the topic, the more we talk about it, not only do we realise how prevalent mental health concerns are, but we also move closer to smashing the stigma behind it and better embody what it can mean to truly care for the whole person.

Diversity & Inclusion Committee and UDIA NSW Member Mal Brown, a Principal at Northrop Consulting Engineers, recently shared his own personal journey with stress and anxiety.


 

The real (untold) story of a leader dealing with stress and anxiety

 

COVID-19, or coronavirus is enough to make the average person shudder when they hear it.

The words social distancing and isolation are synonymous with COVID-19 – and to those with already fragile health, could be enough to make your world fall apart. At work and in my home life, I am a very social person – your typical extrovert who thrives off interactions with colleagues, peers and friends. How would this play out for me while we were in lockdown?

As it turns out, several weeks into isolation and – surprisingly well! I’m feeling good for those who ask. For many of ‘us’ – those who struggle with mental health, and those without – I recognise things may not be so good. This is especially so if there is an underlying mental health issue. This is a great chance to check in with you and again ask the question… So, R U OK? Before you answer, I’d like to share my story with you, parts of which might resonate in our busy development industry.

My awkward journey with stress and anxiety

We all get a bit stressed at work. Some of us also get anxious. A little bit of both is good, right? We hear about the “inverted U” theory and those who thrive on the adrenaline of deadlines. Maybe. Maybe not. At what point does too much stress and anxiety become detrimental and out of control? For me, it was after 30-odd years in my career.

I took on a job with more responsibility and I had some nagging self-doubt which played on my mind. And other stuff. You might ask why I’m sharing this information with you and exposing my vulnerabilities. Partially due to my newfound support and understanding of speaking up and having the conversation around work related issues. I refuse to be shackled by the stigma that has often been associated with speaking up. And as a leader at my company, Northrop, I believe I should lead by example and model this behaviour to my colleagues. But maybe others who read this can relate to my story and it helps them. Sprinkled throughout my story, what you’ll find is some good advice and my own mistakes to hopefully learn from – which might make it more human and relatable.

 A shopping list of experiences

 Stress and anxiety can manifest in a number of ways. Mine was completely textbook physical and emotional responses. Teeth grinding by day, but especially in my sleep, tension around my shoulders, neck and head. Racing heartbeat and thoughts. Poor sleep, leading to increased intolerance and a short temper. And the guilt that I feel when it’s directed at the people I care about the most – my family. Living with this shopping list of negative experiences is no fun for me, nor for those around me. And I am also concerned about my long-term health and the potential for this stress to lead to other more serious problems which can also occur.

My first mistake

Many people with stress and anxiety symptoms typically ignore them and hope they will go away. I think I realised the problem early and took myself off to a GP for a chat. What I didn’t expect was to be prescribed with some anxiety pills (what some would say is the scourge of Western medicine – a pill for everything).  The more I thought about it, the more I realised a few things:

  1. I couldn’t really tell if the pills were having any significant positive effect.
  2. Thanks to Dr Google (which I don’t recommend), I saw my future embedded in a medium to long-term pill dependency.

Without doctor’s advice – though I let my doctor know later, I stopped taking the medication.

Bumbling on

I felt empowered by my decision to reject pills. And while I have no regrets about that decision, my next mistake was that I didn’t replace them with anything other than false hope and crossed fingers. Consequently, but also not surprising, my stress and anxiety spiralled, and the symptoms worsened. Luckily, some time earlier, my workplace had hosted two excellent inspiration sessions for our staff – one on mental health (R U OK?), another on wellness (including mindfulness). While I didn’t think I needed that help at the time, the tools were there when I needed them – and were key to helping me reverse my slide.

The Right Stuff

Our whole group at work had tried meditation during the wellness session. Immediately afterward, I had felt a lot more ‘present’, and my thoughts were clearer. Feeling inspired and intrigued, I downloaded some mindfulness apps and tried meditating.

Trust me, I’m no hippy or alternative medicine zealot, but I found what works for me. In fact, it’s been amazing! One particular app I like is called Headspace. Not only are the first 10 sessions free but these guided meditations by mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe (with his incredibly soothing English accent) are so easy to dip into when and where you need a hit of calm and perspective.

Headspace teaches simple concepts through analogies like: thoughts are always running along a road in your mind. People who try to control their thoughts trip up the flow and cause problems. Our job is to sit by the road and observe (not judge or interfere) with our thoughts. Another analogy is that our thoughts can be visualised as clouds in the sky. Sometimes they are dark clouds and there may be a lot of them. But, the blue sky is always up there and we can find this place of calm despite the clouds getting in the way. Sounds simple, but it takes practice, in my case for just 10 minutes every day (you can do more if you want). I look forward to that time every day.

Headspace apparently has 31 million users on its platform, so it’s tried and tested, but the great news is there are many other meditation apps to choose from depending on what you’re looking for. Another technique I use is known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, which is great for releasing the muscle tension in our bodies, and can be accessed on YouTube. It’s a fantastic way to prepare your mind and body for a deep sleep.

Getting a grip

So, in summary, getting a handle on stress and anxiety can be simple, easy and effective. I can’t explain how it all works in my brain. But, even after 10 days, I had improved a lot. I’m able to recognise and observe my symptoms, and I’m generally calmer. I am also able to focus better and longer, and I’ve found it helps with my sleep. And I’m easier to live with. I still have some stress and anxiety, but it has diminished, and I feel confident that continued mindfulness will really help. And importantly for me: it doesn’t come in a pill jar.

Note that this has been my experience, and I would say that my situation reflects relatively mild stress and anxiety. Others may be starting from a much more acute situation, and their response times and degree of success can vary. I also point out that I am very physically active which has been a constant throughout and recommend some regular physical activity as part of any mentally healthy lifestyle.

The first step last

After all this effort, I did last what I should have done first. I booked an appointment with one of Northrop’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counsellors. My EAP (Clinical Psychologist) in Sydney is very strategy-orientated. This means she doesn’t just listen; she suggests a range of strategies to try to mitigate and manage stress and anxiety. One of those is, you guessed it, is mindfulness. 

Conclusions 

From what I read and the conversations I have had, it seems the stress and anxiety I experience are not unusual. What my story highlights are the strategies and professional help that are readily accessible, easy to do, and helpful. It also shines a light on some of the mistakes we tend to make. We think we can cope or that stress and anxiety will just go away. They might, but you’d be lucky if that was the case.

My key take-homes are:

  • visit an EAP clinical psychologist early
  • try mindfulness and meditation on an app like Headspace. Commit to doing 10 days in a row and see how you feel.
  • stress and anxiety are only one component of the R U OK message. It is not my intent to trivialize other issues or concerns.

Good luck on your journey, and fingers crossed for being able to meet up in person, soon.

 

Mal Brown

Principal, Northrop Consulting Engineers

 

If this article has prompted you to feel uncomfortable, help is here. To talk to someone you can call Lifeline on 131114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

 


Since 2018, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee has been one of the key Business Advisory Committees for the UDIA NSW, focussed on improving and promoting diversity and inclusion in the UDIA and our industry. This year, we launched the ‘One Thing’ campaign – celebrating and sharing the ‘one thing’ that we’re doing to empower people by respecting, supporting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, beliefs, disability, sexual orientation, and education. What’s your One Thing?