Martin Hill wins UTS Chancellor's Award for Excellence
- Graduate Diploma in Land Economics (1988), Master of Property Development (2006)
- Founder and Director, HillPDA
- UTS Alumni Award for Excellence 2018 – Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building
In 1999, after almost a decade’s work, property economist Martin Hill launched EstateMaster, software that would change the way development opportunities are analysed in 46 countries around the world. Despite initial reservations from conservatives, the feasibility program is now the industry standard, used by developers, appraisers and investors to calculate land value, taxes, interest and return on equity.
Hill was in the first cohort of the Graduate Diploma in Land Economics at the newly minted University of Technology Sydney. Offered for the first time in 1988, the diploma was Australia’s first postgraduate property course, drawing esteemed professionals from diverse fields, including architects, surveyors and planners.
“The course gave us exposure to different disciplines, which was extremely important,” says Hill.
“In today’s world you don't just go into one profession. You go through a change of professions and I think that's the modern economy.”
He went on to establish his own firm, HillPDA, a consultancy that incorporated his fledgling software business. “It was hard back then,” Hill admits. “I was young and just married. I’d be working there during the day and at night I’d supplement my family’s income by lecturing at universities.”
Almost 30 years later, Hill still guest lectures at UTS. Two of his children, Nicholas Hill and Virginia Phillips, hold degrees in property development and work at Hill’s firm (in fact, when he returned to UTS to study a Master of Property Development, Martin completed a group assignment with his daughter). His eldest daughter, Sarah Hill, shares Hill’s commitment to affordable housing and is an adjunct professor at UTS and CEO of the Greater Sydney Commission.
Hill got his big break in 2000, when the goods and services tax was introduced. “All the big companies were scrambling to work out how it would impact their cash flow and all of a sudden we started selling all this additional software. I thought it was just a flash in the pan,” says Hill.
It wasn’t: revenue increased at 100 per cent for the next eight years and HillPDA opened offices in the UK, US and Dubai. The company bounced back from the 2008 global financial crisis and continued to grow internationally as accurate feasibility studies became critical to securing bank loans. In 2017, Hill sold the software to competitor Altus Group, a multinational with 2,500 employees.
Under the University Partnership Program, he has distributed the technology to more than 30 universities around the world, so students could learn to use it for free.
Throughout his career, Hill has initiated several housing-affordability schemes, an interest he attributes to his teenage years, when he worked at his father’s boarding houses. In the late 1990s, he founded not-for-profit Metro Housing, which was responsible for the financial modelling and master plan of a joint-venture development in Canberra, in which profits were invested into affordable housing. The model has been replicated by several non-profits in the years since. More recently, Hill has been working with Sydney councils to create incentives for developers to incorporate below-market-rate housing in their projects to supply to essential workers, such as nurses.