Wednesday, August 10

Know the housing stock. New records

On October 11, I published a long article on housing in this same newspaper: “Some diagnostic brushstrokes and an index.” This alluded to the development, which seemed necessary, of issues that were outlined there. It is a series of seven articles that, like the first, aim to provide ideas for a new law. All are written before the approval of the Housing Law Draft (APLV). Perhaps they can contribute something to its parliamentary elaboration.

Lets start by the beginning. We do not know in depth the housing stock, neither quantitatively nor, to a lesser extent, qualitatively. A statement that will hardly be discussed with me, having contributed, from so many and varied positions, to the clamor of the insufficiency of statistics on housing.

In the song to private property that the self-proclaimed liberals (who cease to be in so many respects) tend to question everything that limiting their exercise may mean, including information about it. Especially with regard to housing, the property has been protected in opacity.

That was the tradition, which drags the real estate world. Fortunately, at present this opacity has been partially overcome, although the large data source files are still not sufficiently exploited, nor are the Census, the Register, the Cadastre, the Property Registry and the Personal income tax. If there were any legal impediment to do so, it would have to be overcome.

A new housing law would have to start from the knowledge of its own object, the housing stock and its great internal diversity, even more unknown. Before going to regulate it, it would have to introduce measures and mechanisms to know it more precisely. Furthermore, regulatory measures should be based on this greater knowledge.

The great stock that we have accumulated, throughout decades of intense housing construction, is only counted in fact, and systematically, every 10 years, in the Censuses. Now it is our turn, in 2021, the results of which, however, we will not know until 2023. It will give us a new total, predictably around 26 million homes. It will give us a total and, it seems, a distinction between the main dwellings, that are serving as their habitual residence, and the now larger remainder, made up of various situations. If anything, the “empty” homes, which have caused so much litigation, will appear as “uninhabited”, without resolving the inherent uncertainty regarding their detection.

Well, we should enable a new home registration system, similar to that of cars. The new law would be the occasion to do so. Cars, as soon as they leave the factory, have an indelible chassis number. Homes could have it. In any case, as soon as someone acquires them, they have a license plate, that accompanies them in all their possible transactions until scrapping. One might think, for new homes, something similar to the vehicle identification chassis. In any case, counting on the large proportion of homes already built and accumulated over the years, we could assimilate that registration with the cadastral reference number. This is already beginning to appear in taxes and transactions. It should be essential that it be recorded, and thus be regulated.

However, based on the “registration” as identification, different new registers could, and should be established. There would be two fundamental registries: Private Use Housing (VUP) and Financial Active Housing (VAF). Within this, there would be two different registries: Homes for Sale (VAFV) and Homes for Rent (VAFA). Along with these three basic registries, it would be convenient to establish another two: Homes for assignment of use (VCU) and Homes for Tourist Use (VUT). It would be that the sum of the five records was exhaustive and always the same in real time. It would change every year with the net balance of the new ones built and the demolished ones.

Anyone who has one or more homes would have to expressly register them in one or another registry. In the VUP you could register as many homes as you want, without any limitation. He could do it for whatever reasons, without restriction and without having to give explanations. This could include, in addition to the habitual residence, those that you reserve for your children, or even those that you do not dare to put on the market out of prudence, justified or not. No one would stop him. Now, as long as the homes they own were “protected” in the VUP registry, they would not be subject to any regulation (except for their mandatory declaration in personal income tax) but they could not be marketed. Only be transferred, without economic transaction, to relatives or friends.

If the individual registers a home in VAF, he would have to decide from the outset in which one he registers it, in VAFV or VAFA. If you are going to sell your main home, you would have to cancel it in VUP and immediately register it in VAFV and register the new one that is bought in VUP. Everything should be able to be done from the same notary. The same would have to do a proprietary company. The registries, without any requirement or complication beyond the free decision of the owner, would allow them to change at will, and immediately, their homes from one registry to another. However, these registries, supported by the capacity of big data, and within the framework of the ongoing digital transformation, would allow us to count, in real time, and in a territorially differentiated way (by municipalities or even by census sections) with the availability of homes for sale or rent, occupied, pending transaction or idle. The records would finally end with the nebula of the houses with which the great forks have, not only in number but also in location and situation. Maps could be made, something that has been missed, specifically in the Sareb, being a public “invention”. They would also end the uncertainty of housing conditions.

For these new registries, it would be necessary to take advantage of to claim from the owners, individuals or companies, that they fill in a small data sheet of characteristics of each one of their homes. Similar to the forms of the Social Security or the Tax Agency. File in which, together with the registration, which is already compulsory for everything, at least: date of construction, typology, surface, state of conservation (on the date of registration) and situation: abandoned, empty from whatever date, rented , squatted (denounced or not), in the market to rent or sell. Based on the record that was established, the registration of the VAFs and even the VUPs would be organized, susceptible at any time to pass to VAF. If the VUP owners did not want to fill out the form, they would have to do so to pass one of their homes to VAF and put it on the market.

The obligation to register, and to introduce the registration in every housing transaction, would perhaps allow eliminating from the market some “premises” (to call them in some way) that, through housing, might not be registrable as such. Many of the accounts of the search for housing in the big cities show the hovels that are being offered, which make one long for the ministries of Minister Trujillo that, even small, would have had everything necessary.

Once the new registries were established, and implemented, and being public, some of the current discussions would disappear. Specifically, the one that involves the existence, or not, of idle (empty) houses and their number. But also to dilute the potential “attacks” on private property, which are now attributed generically. Detailed knowledge of the housing stock and its distribution would be a good basis for public policies and even business decisions. Although companies boast of knowledge of the market, the records will help them to know it better. Transparency, they say, is another key to the proper functioning of the market.