Legislators Continue to Help Homeowners with Failing Foundations in Connecticut
Strong homes are built on solid foundations. For many homeowners in Connecticut, their homes are literally crumbling beneath them. There are around 35,000 instances of deteriorating concrete foundations in the state, leaving homeowners with costly, and sometimes unachievable repairs.
The problem with foundations in north-central and eastern Connecticut is pyrrhotite, a mineral found in the aggregate used in the construction of these homes. U.S. News explains that pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide, “causes concrete to crack and break gradually as it becomes exposed to water and oxygen.”
Many of the doomed foundations were built with materials from a now-defunct concrete company in Wilmington between 1983 and 2015. Because the houses using this deficient material were built over the span of 32 years, officials told U.S. News they believe the problem will continue in waves and will likely spread as far as southern Massachusetts.
Fixing the issue is no small task. To be properly fixed, homes must be lifted, propped in place, and an entirely new foundation must be poured. Then, six to eight weeks later, the house will be habitable again and the owners may be out anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 or more according to The Patch. That’s a price tag some homeowners can’t afford. Wendy Padula, a retiree in Vernon, CT believed she’d have to walk away from her home when she got the initial quote of $300,000. “There was no way I could afford to fix it,” she said. However, she was able to take advantage of funds from a captive insurance company in order to fix and, ultimately stay in her home.
Formed in 2017, the Connecticut Foundation Solutions Indemnity Company (CFSIC) has provided over 100 eligible homeowners with funds to complete repairs. The captive insurance company is funded with $20 million a year, for five years, through state borrowing and an annual fee of $12 that homeowners pay through their insurance policies. This $12 surcharge is deposited into the Healthy Homes Fund. In June, CFSIC received $10.6 million from this fund which, CFSIC noted in the article More Concrete Relief for Homeowners With Crumbling Foundations, is $2.1 million more than they anticipated.
While homeowners can qualify for up to $175,000 through CFSIC to make repairs, the total cost is often well beyond that. The insurance company is set to expire in 2022, potentially leaving hundreds of more homeowners on the hook for major structural repairs.
In May of 2019, additional legislation was passed, allowing homeowners to obtain low-interest loans for repairs to, and replacement of, crumbling foundations for homeowners that had reached the maximum assistance limit through CFSIC. Rep. Luxembourg, chair of the legislature’s Crumbling Concrete Caucus, praised the move and told The Patch, “Many homeowners in eastern Connecticut have experienced serious financial consequences because of failing concrete foundations, so I am happy we are moving to make these loans available.”
To find out if you qualify for assistance and to apply for aid you can visit the Connecticut Foundation Solutions Indemnity Company website.
In hopes of preventing more of the “slow-moving disaster” of a crumbling foundation, legislators not only want to keep captive insurance open, but they also want to create quarry standards. These standards would require that quarries complete a geological source report to document the aggregate they have mined, record how it’s processed and stored, and document their quality control methods.
The Hartford Courant also states that the legislature would “mandate testing of aggregate to identify the presence of pyrrhotite and measure the total sulfur content.” Aggregate testing with a total sulfur content of more than 1 percent will be banned from use.
Rep. Tom Delnicki told the Hartford Courant he would also like to introduce a bill mandating that insurance companies cover the peril of collapse. Previous legislation in this area has failed and insurance companies continue to deny homeowners claims to cover the cost of foundation repairs. Delinicki is hoping that with data from the CFSIC insurance companies will be able to analyze how to cover the problem in their policies.
The superintendent of CFSIC Michael Maglaras believes, “We’re looking at a natural disaster here. A catastrophe. This is an insidious problem. It’s gradual. It creeps up through the system and it destroys homes and it destroys lives.” Current and proposed programs aim to help homeowners fix the problem and avoid it in the future.