National house price register to be set up

 

Government says time for delivery uncertain because of data protection legislation, writes EDEL MORGAN McGRANE

A NATIONAL house price register is to be set up for the first time by the Government following years of criticism at the lack of transparent information about the housing market.

It will form the basis of a house price index that would monitor the fluctuation in house prices.

The Minister for Housing Martin Finneran told the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) yesterday that a number of bodies and agencies are in talks to set up the register.

The lack of a national register has been the subject of widespread controversy given the absence of accurate house price data available to housebuyers, policy makers and vendors, particularly at a time of economic uncertainty.

Last month the monthly ESRI/Permanent TSB house price index was suspended and replaced with a quarterly survey because too few mortgages have been issued to provide accurate monthly price data.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said the time frame for delivery of the register is uncertain because current data protection legislation surrounding the publication of house price figures will be an issue.

“It depends on how long it takes to amend the legislation and how quickly a suitable legislative vehicle is found,” he said. Chaired by the Department of the Environment, the bodies involved in discussions about the register include the Irish Auctioneers Valuers Institute (IAVI), the CSO, the Department of Justice, the National Property Services Regulatory Authority and the Property Registration Authority (which controls the Registry of Deeds and the Land Registry).

The spokesman said the register would be based on information already collected by agencies, such as the Land Registry, and through stamp duty data, but the level of detail may not be equivalent to that of other countries.

“It may not have details such as date of construction or the number of reception rooms in a property. We will work with information already collected and then the level of detail will evolve over time, but there is a pressure on resources. There is a question mark over whether it’s appropriate for the State to get into the level of detail you would get in some estate agents brochures.” He said it wasn’t yet clear how regular the national house price index would be at this stage.

When asked why it has taken so long for the Minister to get to this stage with the register the spokesperson said: “It hasn’t been a priority, there have been other priorities. Now we have 56,000 households on the local authority waiting list, 93,000 in receipt of rent supplement, our budget has been slashed by 50 per cent over three budgets and we’ve been tackling homelessness and housing for older people with disabilities.” He said the register would not be providing information on vacancy rates. “We have no plans to carry out a property by property vacancy list, but work is ongoing to enable the Department to form a picture of unfinished or partially completed estates.”

The CIF welcomed the announcement saying it would enable “the putting in place of real time, reliable housing market statistics”. Martin Whelan of the CIF says speed of delivery has to be a priority. “We can’t be waiting a number of years and I don’t believe it has to be complicated. It has worked in other jurisdictions, like Northern Ireland, England and the US.”