Societas International Institute for Real Estate Finance is already making its mark in Latin America's housing sector. The organization, which was launched less than a year ago, seeks to serve as a central clearinghouse for operational information about international real estate finance, including the use of securitization techniques.

Societas recently teamed up with UNIAPRAVI, the Latin American Association for Housing Finance, and the organizations are planning to present a package of cooperative ventures. One of their joint projects will be a comprehensive database of housing and real estate finance in Latin America.

Some of the information already exists but it is incomplete and owned by private organizations. "We want to build a central place with universal access," said Debra Erb, president of Societas.

The database will include general statistics on the real estate market in the region as well as information on the components of the finance system and securitizations.

"By building this database we are trying to address two main problems in Latin real estate finance," explained Erb. "One of them is that the type and availability of information varies greatly among the different countries so we want to try and go through an exercise of grouping them into peer groups and looking at the common areas in terms of infrastructure and the types of issues that they face. The other problem is a direct result of the first one: currently it's very difficult for prospective investors or analysts to compare and contrast between the different countries."

Societas chose UNIAPRAVI as their first partner because the association already has experience in data collection. "Ten years ago they did a series of studies country by country so they have a foundation of data that they have been adding to over the years," explained Erb. "It is just that they found that the process of going out there and collecting in-depth data was too expensive."

Societas devised a clever way to obtain funding. The organization is planning a securitization conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil this fall and will use the proceeds from the event to pay for a similar database for that country.

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