Fiona Nield – Executive Director (Victoria), Housing Industry Association
What attracted you to the industry (and when)?
As a qualified town planner, with an interest in planning, building and housing policy I could see there was an opportunity to simplify the system and to improve the building process for all involved. I’ve worked at HIA for 15 years, and also in senior roles in state and local government. I spend my time collaboratively working across all industry areas, and contributing to government policy, to make sure we are meeting the needs of the community by providing homes for Victorians. I have always been a practical person and am excited by the many areas we can implement positive changes.
What do you love most about the industry?
Our members, who do an amazing job every day building homes. Whether they are developers, builders, manufacturers, suppliers, trade contractors, designers, draftsmen, planners or anyone in between, everyone contributes. I also love that our industry provides people with a place to live, it provides their home and helps create sustainable communities throughout Victoria. Seeing the sheer size of the industry, the skills involved and the endless possibilities is exciting.
What do you consider your greatest industry challenge/s?
Victoria faces ongoing challenges with housing affordability, planning delays, red tape and excessive taxation on new homes. These issues need to be seriously addressed by all levels of government. The housing industry is the backbone of the Victorian economy and we need to ensure we support our members.
Sometimes governments do not seem to understand the impacts of the decisions they make and how it can affect all Victorians. At times policies are implemented in a reactionary manner, without a proper understanding of the consequences they have. It’s up to us to clearly communicate our concerns and ultimately make the case for change. This takes time and can be frustrating.
The way in which governments seem to justify placing costs on housing, and thinking the costs can be absorbed along the way. These decisions directly push up the cost of housing in an already competitive market. New regulation must be paid for and it’s housing affordability that suffers.
The competitive flexibility and versatility of the industry to adjust to trends. It results in the number of home designs we see, and the flexibility consumers have to find a product that really fits the bill for their lifestyle and budget.
If you had the power, how would you improve the process?
Governments seem to be continually adding to requirements without cancelling anything out. Regulations are added on top of the other, making things more difficult. We should focus on what we are trying to achieve and have a simple regulatory framework to accomplish this. I’d also like to see delays in the planning process dramatically reduced. With affordability and an ageing population in mind, it is in the interest of the whole community to ensure small developments can proceed through the system quickly and efficiently.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about building?
That delays in the process don’t cost anything and developers and builders have an endless bank balance to pay for the extra taxes and regulatory costs. This could not be further from the truth. Our members are passionate about the work they do, and go the extra mile to make the homes they are building exceptional. But sometimes it just takes a long time. Council delays and a slow process mean the costs add up. The planning approval time for medium-density developments can often be greater than the time it takes to build these homes. That simply doesn’t make sense.
If building tomorrow, what feature would you most like?
A big light-filled kitchen and family meals area. The kitchen is the heart of the home, where everybody gathers and talks. It’s a communal space for family and friends, and cooking and sharing food is one of my favourite pastimes. I would also love a “mud room” for dumping messy items, including shoes, bags and coats, and keeping them out of view.
Any tips for future-proofing a home?
Rather than buying for now, consider all options and uses your home might have in the future. Many people have options for working from home, so it might be wise to consider a dedicated office space. Or if you plan on having a family, or extended family, consider the spaces that might work for you.
What do you think building a home will be like in 2030?
I think many homes will become more customised … and even more of an expression of personal taste. There will be a need to build a greater number of medium-density options as we have an ageing population and strong population growth. And as land costs increase, medium-density living may become more of the norm. There might also be more lightweight construction options, more off-site construction, increased modular options, and a prominence towards homes that can accommodate extended-family living. As technology continues to excel, we’ll also see spaces that integrate working lives with the family home.