In­tense weath­er­proof­ing

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial -

View­ing the dev­as­ta­tion in Mex­ico and the Caribbean, with all the poor peo­ple’s homes shat­tered and scat­tered, I thought there must be a bet­ter way to build homes in ar­eas prone to hur­ri­cane, flood or earth­quake. Here is a sug­ges­tion.

Homes can be con­structed of steel gird­ers and beams with an all-metal roof, weath­er­tight shut­tered win­dows, foot­ings set in con­crete, with the “ground” floor two me­tres above grade (in other words, on stilts). The in­te­rior in­su­lated and fin­ished con­ven­tion­ally. The ex­te­rior painted or faced with eas­ily re­placed ma­te­ri­als, for ex­am­ple, “faux shin­gles” at­tached to the metal roof. The home looks like a reg­u­lar wooden house, ex­cept it is ac­tu­ally a strong steel box set in a large con­crete block, highly re­sis­tant to be­ing blown or washed away, and does not have to be re­placed af­ter storms. (There are some tech­ni­cal is­sues with steel con­struc­tion, for ex­am­ple in earth­quake zones, but none be­yond hu­man wit to re­solve).

Steel struc­ture homes are more pop­u­lar in Europe but are new to New­found­land, the first two built re­cently at Long Pond and Green’s Har­bour, the for­mer hav­ing three bed­rooms and a dou­ble garage, said to cost $1 mil­lion — a very smart home. The ma­te­ri­als are pre-cut, pre-punched and pre­man­u­fac­tured largely from re­cy­cled steel and as­sem­bled lo­cally.

While $1-mil­lion steel homes are mar­ketable in de­vel­oped coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly for those liv­ing on flood plains, more mod­est homes could cost less, say $100,000, but even this will be be­yond both in­di­vid­u­als and gov­ern­ments in de­vel­op­ing or eco­nom­i­cally de­pressed coun­tries.

As al­ways, help is needed from coun­tries like Canada, whose 2016 in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance stands at $3.9 bil­lion, the largest ben­e­fi­ciary in the Amer­i­cas be­ing Haiti. But Canada’s aid bud­get is un­likely to in­clude re­build­ing with steel hence, ad­di­tional money is re­quired from the pub­lic purse (the tax­payer).

How­ever, there is an un­tapped source of funds if there was a po­lit­i­cal will to tackle tax eva­sion (il­le­gal), tax avoid­ance (mostly le­gal), tax havens and tax loop­holes that ben­e­fit wealthy in­di­vid­u­als and cor­po­ra­tions. How much money is lost to the trea­sury is not clear. De­spite an elec­tion cam­paign prom­ise, Ot­tawa hasn’t pro­duced an of­fi­cial fig­ure for the tax gap — an es­ti­mate of the dif­fer­ence be­tween tax due and tax col­lected – per­haps be­cause the num­ber is em­bar­rass­ingly large. In Canada, an es­ti­mated $81 bil­lion is lost to tax eva­sion, plus $47.8 bil­lion in un­col­lected taxes, ev­ery year. The Tele­gram’s Lana Payne drew at­ten­tion to the $27 bil­lion “pas­sive in­come” sit­ting in­side Cana­dian-con­trolled pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions whose tax sta­tus is un­known.

At $100,000 each, 10,000 steel homes can be pro­vided for each short scale bil­lion (a thou­sand mil­lions). This is a small num­ber com­pared to the need, but it is a start, with ad­di­tional homes pro­vided each tax year, even more if Canada is joined by Western coun­tries with sim­i­lar tax cir­cum­stances.

Per­haps the money gath­ered from tax dodgers could be put in a spe­cial fund specif­i­cally for re­plac­ing de­stroyed homes, so that the tax wise guys may en­joy the sat­is­fac­tion of di­rectly help­ing their less for­tu­nate brothers and sis­ters.

In Canada, an es­ti­mated $81 bil­lion is lost to tax eva­sion, plus $47.8 bil­lion in un­col­lected taxes, ev­ery year.

De­nis Drown St. John’s

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