UDIA NSW calls for urgent extension to NSW First Home Buyer Assistance Scheme

The current thresholds under the NSW Government’s First Home Buyer Assistance Scheme are due to finish on 31 July 2021 and UDIA calls on the NSW government to extend this deadline as a matter of urgency.

The current lockdown and pause on construction activity is having a significant impact not only on our industry but on the wider community and the economy across Sydney and NSW.

The Scheme has been a successful measure to support more than 48,000 First Home Buyers to enter the market in the financial year 2020/21. It also served to mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, supported the development industry and improved housing affordability for first home buyers during a difficult period when house prices in Sydney increased 15%.

“If the deadline is not extended past 31 July, 2021, UDIA is concerned that any first home buyers purchasing a new home, or land to build a first home from August this year will face an additional stamp duty bill of $30,000 or more based on average house and land package prices.” said Steve Mann, CEO, UDIA NSW.

“An extension is important to sustain activity in the market, particularly as the time it takes to save for a first home deposit in NSW has risen by 6 months over the past year.  A continuation of the Scheme would give confidence to First Home Buyers and the focus should be on supporting the purchase of new homes to support jobs in the development and construction industry. A refocus of this policy to new homes, will show that NSW is open for business and will support industry as we seek to reduce the impact from the lockdowns and NSW construction activity pause and enable plans for the re-opening to be implemented.” Mr Mann added.


Media Enquiries:
Deanna Lane 0416 295 898 or dlane@udiansw.com.au.

UDIA NSW stands ready to ensure a safe re-opening of construction

UDIA welcomes the decision by the NSW Government to partially re-start construction. This is a recognition by the NSW Government that the industry can be made COVID safe.

However, the restrictions on the 8 LGAs mean that we will only be at a fraction of the potential of the construction industry with around 50% of all construction workers coming from these LGAs.

This will cause significant delays in housing and Infrastructure and continue to damage the economy. The supply chain for construction extends 2.7 times into business and this will add to the challenges to operate construction productively.

“We now need to find a way to get the workers in these LGAs back onsite in a COVID safe way. UDIA is calling for all construction workers who are fully vaccinated to be allowed to leave the restricted LGAs for work and for sites within the affected LGAs to be re-opened where all workers on site are fully vaccinated.” said Steve Mann, CEO UDIA NSW.

“We are pleased that NSW Health and the NSW Government has the confidence in our industry for us to reopen without causing any negative impact to the health and wellbeing of the workers or the community.“ Mr Mann added.


Media Enquiries:
Deanna Lane 0416 295 898 or dlane@udiansw.com.au.

UDIA NSW concerned about future of NSW economic performance

NSW dwelling commencements, housing finance and an increase in construction work in the June quarter, have all resulted in NSW moving up from 7th  to 5th place in the quarterly CommSec, State of the States report. Homebuilding and construction are major economic multipliers. The current lockdown and construction pause is doing severe damage to the NSW economy with hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake.

“The improvement in the NSW economy – immediately prior to the construction pause – has given a clear indication of how essential the homebuilding and construction industry is to the NSW economy.” said Steve Mann, CEO, UDIA NSW.

“We need to get construction re-started on all sites by July 31st, with a ramp-up to save jobs in construction, manufacturing and supply. UDIA has been working with the NSW Government on enhancing the construction industries COVID safe measures for the re-opening. We can re-start construction without creating a surge in COVID cases and keep a major part of the NSW economy moving, protecting hundreds of thousands of jobs and livelihoods.” he added.


Media Enquiries:
Deanna Lane 0416 295 898 or dlane@udiansw.com.au.

Rezonings completed in South West a welcome outcome says UDIA NSW

Yesterday’s announcement by the Minister for Planning & Public Spaces, Rob Stokes, on the rezonings in key growth areas in South West Sydney is very welcome news, although a lot more needs to be done to get infrastructure ready before housing can start.

The rezonings in South-west Sydney will boost housing in Glenfield, Leppington and Lowes Creek Maryland creating more than 16,000 homes.

The UDIA NSW Greenfield Land Supply Pipeline Survey – an in-depth survey of greenfield land developers in the Greater Sydney Megaregion (Greater Sydney, Illawarra-Shoalhaven, Central Coast, and the Hunter) – identifies the anticipated schedule for future lot delivery and quantifies the barriers.

The report revealed that four out of five lots, a total of 64,000 lots, that developers are hoping to deliver between FY22 and FY29 require enabling infrastructure including power, state roads, local roads, or a combination of these, all which need to be resolved to bringing lots to market and deliver new housing.

“While the rezonings announced in the South West are an encouraging step, the question remains, when will land supply in other regions start to be released, including in North West Sydney Growth Area, where the NSW Government has yet to resolve the flood evacuation issues,” said Steve Mann, CEO, UDIA NSW.

Land needs to continue to be released and a reliable pipeline of future zoned and serviced land needs to be established.

If all expected lots are delivered, including those currently facing infrastructure constraints, supply will fall short of demand in all the regions that make up the Sydney Megaregion by FY30, as outlined below:

  • South West Sydney and Greater Macarthur by 1,500 lots per annum.
  • North West Sydney is facing a significant undersupply of new housing with 5,100 homes worth of unmet demand for greenfield housing;
  • In the Illawarra-Shoalhaven supply will fall short, with 5,700 homes worth of unmet demand for greenfield housing;
  • Hunter and Central Coast supply will fall short of demand by 240 lots per annum, with 2,000 homes worth of unmet demand for greenfield housing.

We were pleased to see the NSW Government provide some funds for enabling infrastructure in the budget via the Accelerated Infrastructure Fund (AIF). However, the NSW Government needs to provide a lot more enabling infrastructure in the years ahead if we are going to meet the demand for new homes that was recently highlighted in the reports by the NSW Productivity Commissioner and the NSW Intergenerational Report.

“This is a good start, but the NSW Government needs to do a lot more to build the greenfield housing pipeline and tackle the housing and affordability crisis”, said Steve Mann.


Media Enquiries:
Deanna Lane 0416 295 898 or dlane@udiansw.com.au.

Resilience a key factor in purchasing sentiment according to UDIA survey

Home purchaser sentiment remains positive among residents across Greater Sydney, despite concerns around housing supply and affordability, according to the recent Home Purchaser Sentiment Survey released by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA NSW) and Urbis.

Overall Sentiment:

The survey – conducted in May 2021 prior to lockdown – shows overall sentiment remains positive. Despite a rise in negative sentiment since the last survey in November 2020,  46% of people expressed overall positive sentiment in the current market.

In terms of reaction to the current house price surge, of the 1074 people interviewed aged 21 and over, 60% of Sydney residents expect prices to be higher in 6 months, compared to previous surveys going back to July 2019, around 24% of residents thought prices would be higher in 6 months’ time.

“People are rightly concerned about affordability. It is no longer just a Sydney problem, the regions are suffering too with greater than 20% price increases in the past 12 months. We need to build more homes to put downward pressure on prices across NSW. The future housing supply pipeline is inadequate. The government has taken its eye off the ball and we recommend it takes action to increase land supply, fund enabling infrastructure and removing other barriers to supply, such as foreign investor surcharges, slow precinct planning and an overly complex planning system.”  said Steve Mann, CEO, UDIA NSW.

Purchasing Intent:

One in three Sydney residents still indicated they would be likely to purchase property in the next 18 months, which has remained steady since the first survey in July 2019.

21% of respondents are likely to purchase a property for owner occupation in 18 months.

When looking at the breakdown in demographics of respondents, family households and residents 25-34 years had greater intentions to purchase.

Preferred Suburbs:

Urbis Associate Director Kylie Newcombe says, “The survey also canvassed where people would look to buy, and the top 5 suburbs over the last two surveys were Parramatta, Chatswood, Cronulla, Sydney and Strathfield,” said Ms. Newcombe.

Parramatta and Chatswood have consistently been favoured. The reasons for this are the high level of amenity, including retail and transport connections.

Parramatta is on the move and the amenity will only increase, which attracts potential residents. Cronulla obviously provides an enviable lifestyle as do many other beach suburbs which feature highly in the surveys.

Moving Outward:

A first time question in this  survey looked to capture sentiment in the current economic environment about the  impact of COVID-19, which saw 33% of Sydney residents expressing an interest in moving outwards in the next 12 months to the edges of Sydney or to the Regions.

Sydney residents aged 25-34 renting and living in Parramatta, the Inner West and Outer South West and first home buyers,  were the highest demographic expressing interest in moving. It would be fair to say that the desire to move outward has been driven by the increase in the option to work from home and residents becoming more attracted to regional areas, many of which have thrived through COVID.

“It is clear that people in NSW still have faith in the resilience of the NSW property market and the importance of securing a home that meets their needs. It will be interesting to see how sentiment is further affected by COVID and lockdowns over the next few months. Our next survey will be conducted at the end of the year.” said Steve Mann.

The full report can be found here.


Media Enquiries:
Deanna Lane 0416 295 898 or dlane@udiansw.com.au.

UDIA NSW slightly encouraged by 25% improvement in planning assessment times

The announcement today by Minister for Planning & Public Space, Rob Stokes that 13 councils from Lake Macquarie to Sutherland have been given financial incentive to speed up assessment times for regionally significant development applications is seen as a good step to improve DAs above $30 million, which is the key focus for economic growth, jobs and housing supply.

However, the 25% improvement would still mean that NSW would be the worst performing state in Australia for assessment times and we think that the ambition should be higher, giving the housing supply and affordability crisis in NSW.

From the figures provided in the Productivity Commissioner’s White Paper, the 25% decrease would theoretically have the following impacts;

Category  Current NSW performance  NSW 25% improvement  Other states 
Medium Density 200 days 150 days 70 to 105 days
High Density 190 days 142.5 days 105 days
Greenfield sub-divisions 130 days 98 days 2nd slowest state – QLD (100 days)


“If NSW aims to be the Premier state in everything it does, why when it comes to the planning system, are even the proposed improvements keeping NSW last behind the other states. NSW needs to get more ambitious if it is to tackle the housing and affordability crisis we face throughout the state.” said Steve Mann, CEO of UDIA NSW.


Media Enquiries:
Deanna Lane 0416 295 898 or dlane@udiansw.com.au.

One-on-One with Lara Calder

One-on-One with Linda Walsh, General Manager Marketing & Customer for AVID Property Group and Lara Calder, Managing Director for Calder Flower Architects
Pictured: Lara Calder, Managing Director, Calder Flower Architects


Linda: [Intro] The UDIA NSW Diversity & Inclusion Campaign, spotlights key individuals within the Property Industry to hear their individual stories and leadership around D&I.

Lara Calder is the Managing Director of Calder Flower Architects. She leads the practice to challenge the conventions of aged care, seniors living, childcare, social housing, and community design.

Lara Calder, Welcome to “One Thing”!


Lara: Hi Linda, good to see you.


Linda: Likewise. Lara, what is it that you do in your day-to-day work? Tell us a little bit about what your day looks like.


Lara: [laughs] Well, I run an architectural practice with a team of about 18 people, so my day starts with a (particularly nowadays with Covid and working from home), morning check-in meeting. But we would do that anyway just to check-in to set the tone for the day, just to see what everyone’s working on, to pass on any news, or any urgent sort of deadlines that we may have.

So, I think it’s important in an office of this size that everybody pretty much knows what the office is working on. As much as everyone is in project teams and we try to make sure we delegate responsibilities to team leaders, I think it’s important that everyone in the office feels included and we communicate on a regular basis.

But my job is obviously to motivate and manage the team. My job is also primarily to bring new job work into the office and I suppose I am the prime ‘rainmaker’. So, you know, networking, maintaining contact with clients daily is absolutely essential.

But no day is the same, every day is different depending on whatever the opportunities are, or meetings that I have set up. I love meeting new people and I think part of the buzz of running a business is seeking out those new opportunities and selling the business. I’m proud of what we have so it’s an easy conversation to tell people, you know, what we do and the passions behind the work that we deliver.

So, a lot of that takes up my day, but at the same time I am also, I suppose, the design director. So, all the projects I am involved in, certainly in the beginning and the early stages. So, we have design meetings with Teams and I’m very connected with the projects from the start. Once a project has gained its momentum, I can then pass it on to the team leaders to take from there.

It’s important if I’m selling the business and I’m talking to clients about what we do, to have my fingers on the pulse of the actual work. A lot of leadership discussions and forums say as a leader or a CEO you need to step away from the actual doing and manage the business. I find that really hard to do, I need to stay connected to the business to really understand it.

So, I suppose that’s my day. But my day doesn’t always just finish simply at five o’clock, my workday often goes way beyond that. It spills over into weekends, but my downtime is often just tinkering with projects and working in that design space.


Linda: You’re serving a lot of different sectors now like aged care, retirement, schools- there’s a whole multitude of sectors that you’re doing. How do you keep that relevancy and how do you keep ahead of the individual nature of what Calder Flower brings to the architectural output?


Lara: Well, I really toyed with this for a long time about you can diversify the type of work that you do and spread it wider to catch a wider project type. But I think there’s a lot of value in honing your skills and specialising in a specific area, so we do a lot of Aged Care, Retirement and sort of follow-on other projects that are related to that space with community projects, childcare, NDIS Social Housing.

All that sort of comes under the same sort of umbrella of providing accommodation for vulnerable people. So that has become the ethos of our business and we’re very proud to try and deliver good quality designs to people that almost need it most.

So, we’re connected with the industry in so many ways. Obviously the UDIA, we’re a part of the UDIA platform committee for Senior’s Housing. I am fortunate to be in a position where I’m often in touch with people that make decisions about policy, the funding structure around aged care and a lot of those discussions I am quite proud to be part of so we do stay in touch with a lot of the senior people in the sector. So, you really need to stay ahead of the game and do your own research and just be adaptable because there’s a lot of change.


Linda: And do you think there is some change for the positive in terms of the places you are providing for the elderly?


Lara: Oh, for sure! I think even in the 10 years that I’ve been doing this I can see how it’s changed and transitioned since 2009 when I first joined John Flower in the practice, it has evolved way beyond that original care model. The Royal Commission has obviously triggered a whole lot of new thinking, there’s new funding coming through, there’s a whole new draft housing SEPP as well that is proposing a lot of changes to the policies around planning. It’s all about change and it’s all about future models of care. So, we’re quite excited to be driving the change, to be part of what that change is. I guess essentially, we’re designing these things for ourselves. [laughs]


Linda: Exactly, it’s an interesting and exciting space. You yourself, Lara, have done quite a lot for the industry and I know you spent, as you’ve pointed out, a lot of work in relation to this industry association of the UDIA, and contributing to the committee and participating in a lot of respects, and I guess have been paving the way with that committee in relation to this sector. But what’s something people don’t know about you?


Lara: [laughs] I like to think that we do things a little bit differently and having a key point of difference is one of our offerings. Aged care if often challenged with difficult sites, and clients often buy sites at a cheaper land so they’re often constraint with some quite difficult issues like bush fire or flooding or difficult trees. So, for us, solving a site is part of that complex puzzle and we like to think that we can solve a difficult site. So, the one thing that I do that is like, sort of a pet hobby, I am an absolute avid Rubik’s Cube puzzler. I can do the Rubik’s Cube in under a minute [laughs].


Linda: Awesome! I’d like to see that!


Lara: We have the ‘Calder Flower cube’ which is our own customised cube that kind of follows into the whole thing of solving puzzles because I really think that unlocks the potential of every project. It’s how you solve the arrangement of those quite complex buildings.


Linda: Wow, that’s interesting. I would really like that demonstrated one day, Lara.


Lara: Sure.


Linda: Sounds like fun to watch as well. You’re clearly a very successful woman in property, what’s been the one bit of advice that you’ve received that has assisted in your journey?


Lara: I’ve had a lot of advice from people- sometimes it’s advice that I sought and sometimes it was volunteered. [laughs]


Linda: [laughs]


Lara: You’ve got to be open to that advice. But I remember one thing that probably sort of really set me on the path. Before I did architecture, I did nursing. So, I was a registered nurse, and I was thinking of changing career. I had started an interior design course and I was contemplating doing architecture and at that time an architectural degree was a six-year degree so at the age of 23, which I thought was really old, I thought a six-year degree, I can’t just take on a six-year degree now. And I was talking to somebody- I don’t even know who it was- and I said, if I do this, I’ll be 29 when I graduate.

And this person said, you’ll be 29 in 6 years no matter what you do. And it was just such basic, obvious advice and it was such a trigger because I just thought well, I could just spend the next 6 years nursing and doing whatever and nothing will have changed. But it really was the trigger for me to go and do it and so it set me on the whole path of doing architecture, continued nursing alongside that. So, I always wanted to join the care side and the design side together. But it sounds like such an obvious thing to say but it just unlocked all the opportunities.


Linda: Fantastic. So, in that you would be, I guess, be looking out for a lot of people in your, I guess, your health journey and in your architectural studies and learning and influences and being able to pick up little snippets of things that you liked, or enjoyed, reading, or seeing. Who has inspired you? Who is somebody or something that’s inspired you in your journey where it may have helped with positioning yourself today?


Lara: Lots of people inspire me. I suppose my mother was part of that inspiration. She would have inspired me from a young age, and my mother was the only mother I knew at the time when I was growing up that worked. And at the time back then it was uncommon for a woman to be employed and have children like that and so she was a journalist, and she loved her work.

She really loved her work and I always thought that the work she did made her a more interesting person. She had really groovy friends and press people and the photographers used to come and hang around at the house, and she was more interesting because she had that career.

So, I kind of always thought that I would have the same kind of thing, so I do owe a lot to her, she was a good role model but similarly I wanted to be a good role model to my own children. I have worked the whole time that I have been a parent to the 3 children that we have, and I’ve always thought that- I just want to prove to them that you can do anything.

You can just follow your dreams and it’s important to have something that drives you and to have your own passions beyond just being a parent. I love being a parent, but I love the other side of my life as well, so it was trying to be a good role model for them too.

I have a good group of professional female friends as well who inspire me every day with what they achieve and how they balance their lives and the complexities that they deal with in their workplaces. They’re a great support and I learn something from them every time I see them. So, you do need a good network to support you and to inspire you. I get inspired by good design, architects.

We had also just done a couple of post occupancy studies in some of our buildings with a couple of the retirement communities that are living in our buildings. The whole lockdowns sort of opened new opportunities because these retirement communities of older people who are just so comfortable with the Zoom forum now that they all have Zoom, and they all log in and we can do a good workshop with the whole community on a screen.

And the feedback of their experience of living in these spaces were so positive, and they were so filled with joy and with good things to say about how the whole community, belonging to a community, was so important to them and how when the pandemic hit, it had felt more safe and secure than they could have ever imagined. They just loved the environment and the place, so that really did inspire me because those are the end users of our work- that’s who we’re working for. So, inspiration comes from all sorts of places.


Linda: That’s real interesting. It sounds like you have a real solid appreciation for all the things that are coming your way. Just to answer our final question now- in the space of diversity and inclusion- I wanted to just get your thoughts and your insights on your view on the importance of diversity and inclusions as a policy, as a process, as something that should be considered and continue to work on or not. And to ask you, what is your One Thing? What is Lara Calder’s One Thing that you are doing to affect change, or the things that you are doing now or something that you aspire to do in the future?


Lara: That is a big question. It’s a good question though, and again, it’s sort of such a multi-faceted answer. It’s interesting, if I go back to when I was a nurse and those early days of my professional development. Nursing is a very female centric space so most of the nurses that I trained with or qualified to work with were women. Occasionally there was a male nurse, and he was always seen as an unusual sort of newcomer. But it also good because for a man to come and be a nurse against all the odds and all the expectations of society, he really, really wanted to be a nurse. And they were good, and they were so empathetic and so capable, and it always bothered me that it was something they had to do against all the odds so it’s almost like reverse sexism in a way.

But I think when I was working in four different offices as an architect, I did experience different ways that they dealt with women or a junior female architect. Sometimes it wasn’t so great, but it was definitely an awareness. I always thought that if I ever had my own business I would have quite a different culture and a different environment with a place where people felt valued and safe. Not that I didn’t feel valued and safe, but I did sometimes feel like I was a bit on show. It was sometimes not a comfortable space, but when I started up my own business and then joined up with John, I was very aware that I had that opportunity to set the right tone and structure.

Also thinking with my children one of the children, in fact two of the children, went to a school called Currambena which is a very sort of alternative preschool and early education environment and it had this unbelievably good philosophy where everyone was equal. So, whether you were a preschooler aged three or were a teacher or a parent, at all the school meetings everyone had an equal voice.

So, the preschoolers often spoke, and the teachers spoke, and it was just an egalitarian structure that impressed me a lot. So, part of my own belonging and setting up of my business was to have a similar structure, so it was a completely flat structure.

I don’t like that hierarchy of people sort of lauding over others because they are more experience, or they’re better or people are seen as lesser because of the junior/senior thing. I think that every single person has value to bring to a business in all sorts of different forms. So, we have a very flat structure in our office, and everybody contributes equally, and I think that’s the whole idea of safety, people don’t feel threatened or intimidated to voice their opinion, so we have tried to keep that as a strong part of it.

Our office of 18 people is made up of a good mix of people, we have good gender balances, we have all sorts of cultural mixes. And it’s not something you can do purposefully; you can’t sort of say oh I’m going to have all sorts of different nationalities and all sorts of different groups but it’s more when you interview someone to join the team it’s more who’s the right fit for the culture that you’re trying to build. I suppose we have a group of people who are quite gentle as a result, maybe because of the work we do. They’re competitive but they are very respectful, and they set the tone of the office. As soon as you have someone who doesn’t fit into the culture of the office then you’re just aware of that discomfort that happens.

We also must be representative of the clients that we work with, and we’ve worked for religious groups, we’ve worked for different cultural group, culturally specific aged care providers. We don’t align ourselves with anyone specifically or any religion or anything so, I suppose, we must show the client that we are a diverse mix anyway. So, I suppose it’s linked to the work we do too, but I think we’re fortunate to live in times where those things, I like to think, that those lines are becoming very blurred. I know there’s a lot of discussion in the press now about women and the workplace and how things are not progressing as well as people had hoped.

But in our environment, and particularly also in the architectural environment, I think women have a good voice and there’s a lot of opportunity there, but you just must be able to grab it. I think women are sometimes their own worst enemy. It’s just people are perhaps a little fearful or a little hesitant to put themselves out there or to give things a go that they haven’t done before. You must really be brave and dive in and do it and then you set the example for people to do the same so lead by example.

It is interesting because now since John left, I’m the only director and I don’t feel there’s anything unusual with having a single female director in a business. Some people have asked if it is an issue, but I don’t think it is but it’s interesting that they even asked the question.

I think in the work that we do, I don’t think it’s gender-specific or culturally specific I think that mix is there, and it must be there. When I first got to Sydney I worked for, an architectural office, that was almost all men, it was a big office, it was mostly male. The females that worked in the office were interior designers or secretaries and I was the only female architect at the time and, of course, I got pregnant within about five minutes.


Lara: I remember telling my boss that I was pregnant, and he just looked at me and he said this is exactly why we don’t hire women. [laughs] So I didn’t get there but you know it’s interesting, I think the world is changing for the better. I’m sure I’ve seen a lot of change since I’ve lived here.


Linda: I think you’re right. I think we’re seeing some change and I think that your ability to be quite authentic in relation to that way that you’ve approached an inclusive and sounds like a very lovely, gentle culture. Calder Flower sounds like a really great place to work.


Lara: Well, yes. We’ve always wanted to be family-friendly, you want to attract good people and not put people off with long over-time hours so don’t encourage people to work beyond their normal workday. We want people to work 8 hours, be productive, work hard and then go home and relax. You do have to be quite accommodating of parents and all sorts of people’s personal lives. But I think that if people feel valued then they will give you value back.


Linda: Absolutely. And there are some great words to conclude on, so Lara thank you. It’s been lovely to speak with you and interesting to hear your story. I could talk to you for a lot longer, but I really appreciate your time and on behalf of the UDIA NSW and the Diversity and Inclusion program for One Thing- thank you for your time and looking forward to seeing you face-to-face.


Lara: Yes, definitely! Thanks Linda, thank you very much it’s been a pleasure.


This interview forms part of a UDIA D&I Committee initiative series to encourage and highlight more diversity in UDIA and the property industry. It is intended to highlight diversity by profiling our members through industry publications on a regular basis throughout the year. Thank you to Stephanie Partridge, Senior Development Manager, Goodman.

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?

One-on-One with Margaret Maljkovic

One-on-One with Belinda Bentley, Director for 9Springs and Margaret Maljkovic, Chief Customer Officer for Link Wentworth
Pictured: Margaret Maljkovic, Chief Customer Officer, Link Wentworth


BB: Could you please provide us with some background about your role at Link Wentworth?

I am the Chief Customer Officer, Link Wentworth Housing. We are a Community Housing Provider. We manage over 6,400 homes with around 10,000 residents and 200 staff. We offer Social, Affordable, Specialist Disability Accommodation and innovative models to increase the availability of secure and affordable accommodation to people on low to moderate incomes. I am responsible for the leading the operations to deliver a positive customer service experience.

BB: This week is National Homelessness Week, what are some of the initiatives that Link Wentworth is undertaking to address homelessness?

An important focus for us as a company and a passion for our staff is helping people experiencing homelessness to find stable, secure, affordable housing. Housing is a basic human right and we believe that as a society we should work together to eliminate homelessness.

As a company we offer a range of products, services, and support to help people experiencing homelessness. In the Northern Sydney region, as part of the Social Housing Management Transfer, we are one of a few Community Housing Providers alongside the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) that provide Private Rental Assistance products and services to support eligible people secure and sustain private rental tenancies. These include Temporary Accommodation, which is short-term, immediate assistance to people who are homeless, generally in hotels, until they secure more appropriate housing. We also offer a range of subsidies towards private market rentals and provide assistance with bonds that are offered through DCJ in other regions.

In Outer Western Sydney we run Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) supporting around 600 people experiencing homelessness. We have caseworkers who develop support plans and link people experiencing homelessness with services and connections to help them get on top of the challenges they are facing. We also have an Assertive Outreach service that goes directly to where people are staying such as in their car, in a park or under a bridge to provide support and assistance.

We also partner with the NSW Government, Specialist Homelessness Services, and other CHPs on the Together Home program, which provides housing and essential support to people who have experienced long term homelessness and have been sleeping rough during COVID-19. We are supporting 110 people with very complex needs and hope to see this program expand.

Link Wentworth is always looking for opportunities to expand the supply of social and affordable housing. We have progressed innovative solutions to provide safe and secure housing to people who are homeless and have piloted two “meanwhile use” projects, Beecroft House and Mosman House. Meanwhile Use involves the repurposing of vacant or disused buildings to provide affordable accommodation during the period that they are vacant. These two projects provide 42 units of secure and affordable housing and support for older women.

During Homelessness Week, we are highlighting stories of some of our clients through our Facebook page- @linkwentworthhousing – that show the huge difference a stable home and support make to turn peoples’ lives around.

BB: What are the trends for homelessness in NSW – are we seeing growth in certain demographics?

Unfortunately, there is an unacceptable and rising number of people experiencing homelessness at a significant social and economic cost. This is due to structural social and economic factors, and a critical undersupply of social and affordable housing.

There is a lot of research producing information about housing need information about housing need. They all point to a shortfall of supply and increasing numbers of people in need. In NSW there are around 53,000 households on the Social Housing register. 530,000 households and 1.4 million people are living in housing stress. The state currently has a shortfall of 70,000 social housing units (based on OECD average) however previous modelling done by UNSW estimates that the real shortfall is over 135,000. Equity Economics forecasts that NSW needs to build, on average, an additional 5,000 social housing units per year over the next 30 years to just to meet and maintain the OECD average.

Older women are the fastest growing group of those experiencing homelessness. An alarming figure is that nationwide, 405,000 women aged over 45 are currently estimated as being at risk of homelessness. In NSW the number of women aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness increased between 2011 and 2016 by 48%, and the number aged between 65 and 74 increased by a staggering 78% (WEL 2021).

Domestic and family violence is another concerning trend. It is the major reason older women are seeking help from SHS. In NSW of all people requesting assistance from SHS agencies in 2019/20, 38% have experienced domestic violence – these are overwhelmingly women and children (Australian Human Rights Commission). Nationwide, over 9000 women a year are becoming homeless due to domestic and family violence and nearly 8000 a year are returning to perpetrators due to having no-where affordable to live.

On the ground, our Chatswood and Penrith offices have noticed more single males coming through our doors, specifically with complex mental health or addiction problems.

Another trend that we’ve seen more recently is people with pets, and the barrier that can often present to someone looking for a home. We know that pets are important companions for people, especially vulnerable people, so it’s unfortunate to see them being used as a reason to deny housing.

BB: How has COVID impacted homelessness in NSW?

As I mentioned, we are a partner with the NSW Government on the Together Home Program, which is a positive initiative launched in July last year out of the pandemic. currently more people who are sleeping rough are being given temporary accommodation during this crisis, so that’s a positive too, especially in hotspot LGAs where people are more at risk of contracting COVID-19. However, they need a long-term housing solution rather than just going back onto the streets, which is where funding support services and increased social housing supply are critical and programs like Together Home are a positive development.

The most significant impact, however, has to be the skyrocketing rental prices and the lack of affordable housing for people in formerly more affordable parts of Sydney and beyond. Our team has noticed this trend go from bad to worse throughout this entire pandemic, with properties in Penrith, Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury—properties that used to be well in the range for those on JobSeeker—no longer an option. The market is competitive too, with applicants offering $10 or $20 more a week on top of an already exorbitant asking price.

BB: What is the one thing that the property sector can do to assist with reducing homelessness?

The one thing the property industry can do to assist to reduce homelessness is to partner with community housing providers in a range of ways, for example offering underutilised assets that can be repurposed as “meanwhile use” housing. The two “meanwhile use” projects I mentioned earlier – Beecroft House and Mosman House – were enabled by the building industry, through the the provision of temporarily available properties and donation of time, materials and free or heavily discounted renovation and maintenance work.

We all have a role to play and we need ongoing collaboration among the private sector, government and the community housing industry to make a significant impact in reducing homelessness.

I would also encourage the property sector to work with the community housing industry to lobby government for an increase in supply of social and affordable housing. According to the Community Housing Industry Association NSW, there’s a shortfall of more than 200,000 social and affordable homes in in NSW. Social housing represents only 4.7% of all housing stock in NSW, with its growth significantly lagging compared to overall growth in housing stock. We would like to see more government-owned land and properties converted to social housing.

Finally I would encourage everyone in the industry to be aware of the personal factors that can lead to homelessness such as domestic violence, job loss, mental health issues, relationship breaks ups, addictions, etc and if they encounter anyone experiencing these in their personal or work life, please encourage them to seek assistance and reach out to organisations such as ours who can help.

For more information: https://www.linkwentworth.org.au

*Belinda Bentley is Director of 9Springs, a property development and project management firm, and a Non-Executive Director of Link Wentworth Housing.

Belinda is also the 2021 Winner of the UDIA National Women in Leadership Award.


This interview forms part of a UDIA D&I Committee initiative series to encourage and highlight more diversity in UDIA and the property industry. It is intended to highlight diversity by profiling our members through industry publications on a regular basis throughout the year. Thank you to Stephanie Partridge, Senior Development Manager, Goodman.


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?

One on One with Stephanie Partridge

One on One with Heidi Crawford, HR Manager, AT&L and Stephanie Partridge, Senior Development Manager, Goodman
Pictured: Stephanie Partridge, Senior Development Manager, Goodman


HC: Today, I’m talking with Stephanie Partridge, a senior development manager with Goodman in Sydney about her experience working in the property industry. Can you tell me what you do as a development manager?

SP: At the moment I manage about a billion dollars’ worth of development product that’s currently under construction, including $150 million worth of infrastructure. My role is very diverse, and every day can be completely different, which is what I love about it. Typically, I would be on site twice a week and then in the office for rest of it.

I see my role as being like a conductor. Development Managers are responsible for the strategic direction of the portfolio, and if the portfolio is large enough you will have a range of technical specialists who will help you deliver on the portfolio’s desired outcome. You’re responsible for bringing new customers into your portfolio, and you have oversight over the project’s delivery to ensure the commitments made to the customer are met. You work with the relevant authorities to obtain satisfactory planning and infrastructure outcomes for the project. While the role has highly technical construction aspects, you also work across financial, marketing and legal functions.

It’s great to get out on site and see those tangible outcomes of your product being underway and delivered right in front of you.

HC: Do you enjoy working in the property and construction industry?

SP: It’s a great industry. I enjoy being in the office and on site, meeting with customers and seeing how your assets evolve. I love that you get a tangible result from all the hard work that you put in. I originally wanted to be an investment banker so I studied a Bachelor of Business, majoring in finance and economics. I thought I’d be dealing with shares, and derivatives, and effectively paper products all day long.

The year I commenced university, I started some work experience at Goodman. If it wasn’t for that, and for some family members telling me to try out property, I wouldn’t have even thought about commercial real estate as a career because I didn’t know that it existed – I didn’t even know that you could do a Bachelor in Property Economics. There’s also a lot of demand for roles in this area, which is good from a career perspective when compared to other industries.

HC: What do you like the least about working in the industry?

SP: There can be a lot of red tape involved in the planning process in New South Wales. I think the NSW Government has done a good job trying to accelerate the approval process of development applications during COVID, whilst also undertaking a prudent assessment. But I think ultimately, state and particularly local planning processes need to be streamlined and we also need to get the authorities on onboard and working collaboratively to get a good outcome for everyone. There has been progress, but there’s more to be done.

HC: What do you think we can do better as an industry to support diversity and inclusion?

SP: The industry, and all relevant bodies, need to lobby for diversity and inclusion at all different levels.

Businesses have a responsibility to ensure that there’s diversity of people applying for jobs, and then supporting the workforce once they have those jobs. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. I think that the government, schools, parents and individuals all have a responsibility to support D&I across the board.

When I first became a development manager seven years ago, there were no other women working on my construction sites – there weren’t even female bathrooms on sites.

HC: How awful… are you seeing any change?

SP: Now when I go on sites, I see women who are doing physical work, who are in quite senior roles and a ton of female development managers too. We’ve come so far in the last seven years and I think it’s really important to acknowledge that.

Recently, I had a woman who was responsible for the QA for the concrete at one of my jobs, which is very important in a warehouse project. And I thought “How good is that.” On that same site, we have a large civil project underway and they’ve got women driving these huge machines. And I just thought, “How fabulous is this, we’ve got women who are dominating in all different fields across construction.”

I think the appointment of Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz as Mirvac’s CEO had a big impact. She’s put some incredible initiatives in place that have helped change the industry and impacted companies outside the industry. Alison Mirams, the CEO of Roberts Co, has also done a fabulous job of shaking up the construction industry by bringing in a five-day workweek on some construction jobs to give workers a better work and home life balance.

HC: Now obviously you’ve in a leadership role at Goodman. What’s the single biggest lesson you’ve learned about leadership?

SP: I finished an executive education course at Harvard Business School two years ago, which really allowed me to hone in on my leadership skills. One of my key takeways when it comes to leadership is the quote: “They may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

HC: Yes, I love that.

SP: It really resonates with me and I think if you can be mindful of how you come across and work out what’s important to each of your reports and what drives them, then you’ll get a team that works very smoothly. Ultimately, leadership is a journey and there is always lots to learn.

Technical ability gets you to a point, but ultimately if you don’t have the emotional intelligence and motivation, then you’re going to struggle to lead the team and to achieve what you need to when you’ve got a substantial portfolio or business you’re trying to manage.

I read a Harvard Business Review article that examined some of the best performing companies across the world. The one thing they all had in common is a CEO who demonstrated what they called “level five leadership”, which is a leader who has great personal humility combined with an intense professional will. When you combine emotional intelligence, empathy, technical skills and professional drive, you’ll be able to achieve great outcomes.

HC: That’s really interesting. The next question is, what’s the most important changes you’ve seen in the industry?

SP: I think this probably goes back to what we’ve just been talking about. I wouldn’t underestimate how diversity has improved, and I think flexibility has assisted with this. We’ve seen flexibility change over the last seven years, with workspaces and how people work in the office.

Now, since COVID-19 we’ve seen companies become more flexible with where people work from.

So, I think there have been a lot of good changes in the industry in terms of diversity, inclusion and flexibility, but there’s still more to go at the senior level. I’ve seen some great younger people, with a diverse background, coming into the industry and I’m hoping we can continue to tap into the school and university systems to create an even more diverse pool of talent.

HC: The last question is one that we like to ask everybody, what’s your one thing?

SP: The one thing I’d like to focus on is supporting young people. I started in the industry straight after school, not even waiting for university. So for me, I’ve always been a supporter of age diversity. I think it’s important to be confident enough in your own role that you bring your best self to the role and that you are confident enough to promote and support those under you.

I think if there’s people there who are very young, but demonstrate great ability, expertise, and deserve that opportunity, well, you have to make sure you support them to get that opportunity. It’s upwards managing and ensuring they’re on the radar with the executive team and they’ve got what they need to continue to perform their job well.

I want parents to encourage children, especially girls, to know that there are great jobs in our industry that they might enjoy and that are a bit different to a typical role they might have considered.

HC: I think you’ve made some very valid points, and it does start with parents as well. I’m a parent of a girl and a boy, and I’m consciously aware of not stereotyping roles and making sure that I talk about jobs equally.

SP: I think that’s the thing. I think confidence is massively important and if you can instil that within your children, that holds a great amount of weight for them in the future with probably more challenging roles.

HC: Absolutely. Thank you so much for your time.

SP: Thank you.


This interview forms part of a UDIA D&I Committee initiative series to encourage and highlight more diversity in UDIA and the property industry. It is intended to highlight diversity by profiling our members through industry publications on a regular basis throughout the year. Thank you to Stephanie Partridge, Senior Development Manager, Goodman.


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?