Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Get the lead out

The federal government in April passed stricter rules for remodeling older homes aimed at controlling lead -- mostly from the lead-based paint that used to be popular.

The rules require that painters, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and other professional remodelers acquire training in how to identify lead in older homes and how to contain it while they work.

The intent of the law is to protect residents, especially children, and workers from lead dust during the construction.

That is a good idea, but most of the pros already knew how to apply common sense to their work. And, as usual with government interference in peoples' lives, the intent and the actual outcome may not be the same.

First, adding a layer of bureaucracy to remodeling has two effects, it makes it more expensive for those who follow the law and it invites skirting the law.

To be more specific, it lays the burden of correcting a problem on the last ones holding the hot potato, rather than those who originally created the problem, or, heaven forbid, on the government intent on correcting it.

Why should homeowners or landlords shoulder the burden for correcting a problem that went back to a time when lead was legal in paint -- and considered an improvement over the previous technology in paint?

And, it is also based on thinking that home values always increase, so those buying would eventually profit.

I raise thess questions because we are now faced with a national crisis of falling home values and increasing foreclosures. Many foreclosed homes are older, and many are renter occupied.

Perhaps now is not such a great time to make it more expensive and more difficult to buy and fix up homes.

Perhaps it would be a better idea for the government to take on the expense of getting the lead out — which would have a positive impact on the housing market. It would make acquiring foreclosed homes more attractive.

Isn't that what the $75 billion dollars the feds just spent on keeping people in their foreclosed homes was supposed to do? Turns out most of them lost their homes anyway.

How much lead could be removed for $75 billion?


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