Senators Working on Loans to Help Homeowners Fix Crumbling Concrete Foundations - NBC Connecticut

Senators Working on Loans to Help Homeowners Fix Crumbling Concrete Foundations

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Monday, Dec. 5, 2016)

    What to Know

    • Hundreds of homeowners across Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties have discovered they have crumbling foundations.

    • Contractors said the problem cannot be fixed, forcing homeowners to replace the entire foundation at a cost of $100,000 and up.

    • The governor has asked FEMA to get involved and help solve the problem, but the agency rejected the request to set up operations here.

    Two state senators have a plan to help Connecticut homeowners whose home foundations are crumbling and said they are working on giving towns the ability to float bonds so they can give homeowners loans that could possibly be forgiven.

    Sen. Tim Larson (D-East Hartford) and Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) presented their plan this morning during a news conference and said they are proposing that the state authorize towns with affected homes to adopt a loan program and raise municipal bonds to provide funds to help eligible homeowners replace severely damaged foundations.

    “We've tried to be as thorough as we can. There will be some moving parts, but we wanted to present this as an option so that, infact, we could get people a solution to this traumatic problem that people are having,” Larson said.

    So far, 399 homeowners in 23 towns in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties have filed complaints about their foundations and a team of researchers at UConn conducted several inspections, tested the concrete and determined that an iron sulfide mineral called pyrrhotite is the major contributing factor to the deterioration of house foundations.

    There are no construction standards anywhere in the United States regarding pyrrhotite levels in concrete, but standards were established in Europe over the past 20 years.

    Osten said she has listened to many people’s heart-breaking stories, including a couple in their 70s who was losing everything because the house foundation was crumbling, she said.

    “Where at one time they were hopeful of selling their home, they no longer could sell their home and then they couldn’t afford to repair it, so it was particularly devastating,” she said.

    They said in a news release that there would need to be a strict application process to ensure that money granted to property owners is not misappropriated for issues other  than crumbling foundations.

    After the news conference, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano released a statement, accusing the senators of turning the problem into a partisan issue and taking credit for something he said lawmakers from both parties have been working on. 

    "Up until today the entire effort to address crumbling foundations has been bipartisan, with Republicans and Democrats working together with state officials to explore solutions. But today we see a press conference and a news release that completely ignores that teamwork," Fasano said in a statement. "Instead, they stood in front of cameras to take credit for working on an issue that has been a serious problem that many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers are working hard to address. They made this into a partisan issue, at a time when we need bipartisanship and collaboration.” 

    Osten responded to Fasano's remarks: "This is about policy, not politics." 

    Gov. Dannel Malloy had reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in October and asked for the agency to set up operations in northeastern Connecticut to conduct a preliminary damage assessment to determine the extent and impact of what he described as around 34,000 homes in the area with foundations that could be at risk of crumbling and actually collapsing.

    FEMA rejected the request earlier this month and said that while the chemical reaction that caused the crumbling is natural, pouring foundations is a manmade event so the issue is not a natural catastrophe.

    FEMA did, however, offer to designate a staff member to work with Connecticut on the issue.

    State Rep. Kelly Luxenberg owns two properties in Manchester that have crumbling concrete and she said she is working with colleagues in Hartford to draw up legislation to provide money for homeowners affected by the problem.

    "We're committed to getting something through this year and working hard on that," Luxenberg said.

    Read more on the crumbling foundations issue.