A profitable Government Business Enterprise that celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, DHA has developed into a sustainable, self-supporting business, taking on newer and bigger challenges and pursuing larger residential development and construction projects in collaboration with the private sector. 

A property portfolio consisting of more than 18,300 properties, worth $11.1 billion, a host of blue ribbon awards including 20 industry recognitions in the past year alone, and over 42 land and apartment projects around the country with a pipeline value of $3.6 billion – these are just a few aspects of the organisation called Defence Housing Australia (DHA), which has been transforming and modernising Australia’s Defence housing portfolio for over three decades.

Notwithstanding its modest beginnings, DHA is a significant player in Australia’s development sector with nine of its recent projects featured prominently on the red carpet this year, from high-rise city apartments to affordable suburban communities, drawing multiple accolades for their quality, innovation and sustainability.

Thanks to the sale and leaseback program launched in 1996 to diversify its funding sources, DHA is today, one of the biggest property managers in Australia caring for more than 18,300 properties, worth $11.1 billion, in most capital cities and major regional centres with a Defence presence.

A Government enterprise that turns in a neat profit for its shareholders – the Australian public – DHA has recently forayed into higher-density apartment projects with designs that combine contemporary living with an affordable price tag.

DHA’s income primarily comes from its new property developments, particularly land development and new masterplanned communities, from the affordable family living of Wirraway in NSW, to the elegant Breezes Muirhead, on Darwin's northern beaches (Winner: UDIA NT Excellence in Residential Development, 2018).

Crimson Hill is an award-winning community adjoining Lane Cove National Park on Sydney's North Shore. The superb 12.6-hectare site features a mix of 345 architecturally designed apartments, townhouses and homes with approximately 20 per cent assigned for Defence members and their families (Winner: Kuringgai Architecture & Urban Design, Contemporary Design Award, 2018).

The recently completed Liv Apartments in Western Australia capture the contemporary, cultured and eclectic personality of Fremantle. The development features 166 apartments and approximately 1,300sqm of commercial space as well as landscaped courtyards with edible gardens, and a host of energy saving inclusions (Winner: UDIA WA Excellence in High Density 2018).

More than 400,000 recycled bricks will feature in the façade of the industrial heritage inspired Arkadia Apartments in Alexandria. Located opposite Sydney Park, just six kilometres from Sydney CBD, the complex will feature 24 terraces and 128 apartments.

DHA’s flagship project, the multi-award winning The Prince’s Terrace Adelaide, in the Bowden renewal area was jointly developed with Renewal SA and the Prince’s Trust Australia. The first residential project in Australia to achieve a 6 Star Green Star design rating from the Green Building Council of Australia,

The Terrace comprises of eight row houses and four mews apartments, each of which has been designed to reduce energy and water consumption as well as carbon emissions by 50 percent compared to a typical urban townhouse (Winner: Sustainability Awards – Green Building of the Year & Multiple Dwelling, 2018).

Apartments Program director Michael Donnelly, a veteran of property development in the private sector, says, “DHA has changed a lot over the years but there are still a few misconceptions about our business. The industry thinks that, because we are government owned, we somehow have a competitive advantage but DHA is self-funding. It functions as a company with outcomes and KPIs at industry levels. We need to run a profitable business so that our operations are sustainable.

“Homebuyers often think our developments are exclusively available for Defence residents, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our projects are built for the whole community and usually the Defence homes represent around 30–40 per cent of a development.

“Whatever is trending is what we design and deliver for the market. As developers we want beautiful buildings with lots of market appeal that are energy efficient and sustainable.

“As property managers we expect to be an active part of these communities for the long haul, so we want quality that is made to last. Maintenance and sustainability are important considerations for us – perhaps more so than other developers who build a project and leave.”

The commercially profitable company has never lost sight of its mission – to provide attractive accommodation and an appealing lifestyle for Australia’s Defence Force members.

DHA Managing director Jan Mason said, “DHA was born out of a need to create a better lifestyle for Defence families and that agenda has inspired us to strive for vibrant, sustainable communities that set new national benchmarks for innovation and sustainability.

“Defence residents, like consumers everywhere, are attracted to quality and fashionable trends in architecture and design, eager to know their families will live in a welcoming and well-serviced neighbourhood, and keen to feel connected to community beyond the close-knit Defence network.”

DHA employs a team of 645 staff across Australia, including 120 property industry professionals in its provisioning arm responsible for land acquisition, design, development and marketing. They are constantly on the lookout for new development opportunities and strategic land acquisitions to feed the product pipeline.