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Archive for December 26th, 2010

Perhaps he is more pre-occupied with plans for spending the €308,000 he is expected to be given from the public purse next year, having announced his decision not to seek re-election, but Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern has failed to fulfil the commitment he made in August this year to introduce legislation to give effect to a House Price Database (you can confirm this failure by examining the Amendments Notice, Amendments Tabled and Amendments Made pages from the Oireachtas website). The Minister’s commitment – reproduced in full below – was to introduce an amendment to the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 which would put in place the foundation for the HPD. And the commitment was to introduce the legislation “in the next Dail session” which ended just over a week ago. The commitment was, to use the Minister’s own recent untruthful words, “a fiction”.

Called for at least as long ago as 1973 in the Kenny Report, you might have hoped that the Site Valuation Tax which the government has undertaken to put in place in the next three years under the watchful eye of the IMF, might necessitate a HPD. Not necessarily and there might be other ways of introducing a site tax without a public HPD.

In addition to providing basic transparency in the residential property market, a HPD would help counter unlawful transfers, something pre-occupying the media at present even if RTE was careful to emphasise that the transfers covered in its Prime Time Investigates programme last Monday were not alleged to have been unlawful.

Why has Minister Ahern failed to fulfil his commitment? You can speculate but it is certainly a curiosity about Ireland’s modern administration that successive Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour administrations have all failed to put in place a register which they all ostensibly support. Why has Minister Dermot Ahern specifically failed to introduce the legislation now? There certainly isn’t any legislative issue – witness the passage of the controversial and deeply undemocratic Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill though the Dail and Seanad in hours.

Of course the information required by a HPD is already held by the Revenue Commissioners (Irish tax authorities) and is presumably held by estate agents who might officially be prevented from sharing the information but this is not a country known for keeping watertight secrets.

There is a dedicated page for tracking progress, or lack thereof, here.

The Minister’s announcement on 10th August, 2010

“The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, T.D., announced today the establishment of a new property database reflecting market trends and house prices.

The Minister said statutory responsibility for publishing property sales prices would be allocated to the Property Services Regulatory Authority which is based in Navan, County Meath.

Minister Ahern said  he would table amendments to this effect to the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 – which will establish the Authority on a statutory basis – during the next Dail session, and would also bring forward any necessary amendments to the Data Protection Acts to facilitate the publication of sale price data by the Authority.

The Minister said that his proposals would give effect to a commitment in the renewed Programme for Government to facilitate publication of property price data in order to improve market transparency and early detection of market trends.

The Minister said: “I am very aware of the need for reliable and up to date data on house prices and other property. The Property Services Regulatory Authority will be in a position to ensure timely publication of this data as soon as the legislation is enacted later this year”.

The Minister added that, in accordance with the Programme for Government, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government would create and maintain a House Price Database in which the details of residential and commercial property sales will be maintained for statistical purposes.”

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