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