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Face the Facts: State Hits Major Milestone in Effort to Fix Crumbling Foundations

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The state has helped hundreds of homeowners with crumbling foundations get back into their homes, but there's still more work to do.

NBC Connecticut's Chief Investigator Len Besthoff joins Mike Hydeck to discuss the progress to help those homeowners.

Mike Hydeck: The state hit a major milestone this week in the effort to fix crumbling foundations and to try to make the homeowners whole once again. The company set up to finance the claims says it just got its 600th homeowner back into their house. NBC Connecticut Investigates broke the story about these defective concrete foundations seven years ago now. Chief Investigator Len Besthoff is here with the latest. Len, 600 families in about three and a half years, remind us, you know, we've been following this for a while, who's actually paying for all that?

Len Besthoff: That is coming from the state predominantly. There have been two tranches of $100 million each that have gone into the CFSIC funds. There's also what's called the Healthy Homes Fund, which is a $12 annual surcharge on everyone's homeowners insurance. Some people grumble about it, but it's solving a problem for hundreds of people.

Mike Hydeck: Well, it seems like we are kind of taking the lead on this when we talk about it, right? It happened seemingly in Connecticut first, but it's expanding beyond that, right? Not too far over the Connecticut line into Massachusetts.

Len Besthoff: That's correct. It actually happened concurrently, but here in Connecticut, we discovered it first. And our leaders actually have been working on solutions for years now, seven years. They literally got going right away on this. In Massachusetts, it's been a little bit more slower going. And people in Connecticut are going up there to try to help the folks in Mass. get things moving, but they're having a lot of trouble.

Mike Hydeck: You and I were recently talking about this and it was an example of bipartisanship that we don't often see lately that they were able to kind of put this whole deal together to make sure people could get back in their homes.

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Len Besthoff: Mike, if you want a great example, this is it. I, in my career, have never seen Ds and Rs work so well together to help people.

Mike Hydeck: Now I absolutely love construction, you and I know that. You've seen these things be replaced, right? What do they do, they literally lift the house up off the foundation because everything underneath is crumbling?

Len Besthoff: It is an act of engineering and I love going into these. I've seen houses where it's done. I've seen condo units, full condo units, like eight units just lifted straight up. They set up cribbing underneath it and then they have these lifts that go up. I think it's on camera right now. And you go look at that, it's really cool because it goes up so slowly, you barely notice it. But obviously we do time lapse and all kinds of TV magic so that you can see it at home. But it's, I wouldn't say scary to go under there, but…

Mike Hydeck: I wouldn't go under there. Well, you're also, you gotta remember, you take the old debris out, you have to put a brand new setup underneath and then lower it back down. And imagine just all the things that shift inside your house, whether it's you know, the door frames or the sheetrock, that's got to be a challenge as well.

Len Besthoff: Oh, my gosh, it happens before. Because you know, I'll talk to these folks, and they'll tell us about doors that don't close, windows don't close. And they've got to deal with that. And of course, it happens too as it's going up and going down.

Mike Hydeck: It's a big project. Will there be enough money to get everybody a new foundation who needs it? Do you think? Is that still up for debate?

Len Besthoff: Um, it certainly is the magic question because we don't know how many homes ultimately are out there. Right now, there are 2,200 claims for houses and condos. They talk about a second wave coming. That's like 2000 to 2016 where those homes may not have exhibited these problems yet.

Mike Hydeck: Wow. All right. So they have a goal set, right? We're not stopping at 600. Where are they hoping to get and by when?

Len Besthoff: They are hoping to get to 1,000 within 18 months. That's the plan. They have enough money to do this. And of course, they're hoping that they keep getting those tranches of money. Right now, they have another $25 million that got approved by the Bond Commission. They're waiting for the Department of Housing to release it to them so they can honor some of these participation agreements they've entered into.

Mike Hydeck: And I'll get you out of here on this. Everybody's having trouble finding construction crews. Are they getting the job done and having enough people?

Len Besthoff: As best to my knowledge right now because of the incremental progress of this, they had been able to match up homes and construction crews at this point because it is sort of a slow process sort of like the cracking that's going on.

Mike Hydeck: Really unbelievable. Chief Investigator Len Besthoff. Thanks so much for your reporting. I love talking about this new story and the fact that we're getting progress on it.

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