Storm Over Statistics in Housing Market

YERUSHALAYIM -
At a construction site in Beitar Illit. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
At a construction site in Beitar Illit. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A finance ministry attempt to make the Central Bureau of Statistics the exclusive address for statistics on the Israeli housing market has run up against angry opposition both from within the government and the real estate industry, Globes reported Tuesday.

The Ministry of Finance backed a measure in the housing cabinet designating the CBS as the sole source for the official housing index, canceling price surveys which until now have been produced by the chief government assessor and the Ministry of Construction and Housing. The proposal also states that the data must be presented in a style shorn of technical jargon, simple enough for the general public to understand.

However, the proposal itself and the manner in which it was introduced — without prior distribution to allow officials to read it and consult on it beforehand — aroused instant opposition.

Sources close to the chief government assessor and in the real estate industry were quoted as saying it was tantamount to a gag on anyone who might dispute the official line. In fact, a dispute recently arose between the Ministry of Finance and the chief government assessor because of the latter’s latest quarterly survey which said housing prices were rising, while the figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics for the same period indicated a fall.

Real Estate Appraisers Association in Israel Chairman Ehud Danus said: “It seems that the minister of finance has recently been doing anything he can to deal with various matters that have nothing to do with stabilizing housing prices. This applies to the tax on multi-home owners he recently tried to pass, and to the current decision as well, which is more appropriate to the high-tech industry and the creation of a virtual reality or, alternatively, to benighted regimes that do not allow free expression.

“The Real Estate Appraisers Association has no problem in principle with establishing a single index to be published by the government of Israel. It believes that the only body or person that can do so in a professional and transparent manner is the chief government assessor and not the Central Bureau of Statistics, whose index is inaccurate, not uniform, not transparent and clear, and, at the very least, not final at the time that it is published.

“We call on Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked not to allow the harm that is sought to the credibility and professionalism of the appraisal division that is under her authority.”

Danus said that in the event that the chief government assessor’s survey stops publication, the Real Estate Appraisers Association will put out its own index using the same criteria.