U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson pledged Monday to work with federal, state and local officials to help thousands of Connecticut residents whose homes are falling apart because of defective concrete foundations.
Carson made the promise while visiting the home of Maggie and Vincent Perracchio in Willington, Connecticut. Cracks began forming in their basement walls about three years ago and have spread upstairs, striking fear that the home might collapse someday.
“As compassionate individuals, we all should care about our neighbors,” Carson said. “That was one of the reasons that this country succeeded early on, because people cared about each other. As long as we adopt that feeling of truly caring, we will solve this problem.
“I can’t imagine what it’s like for the homeowners,” he said. “By working together with the other federal agencies, with Congress, with the state and with the local officials as well as the private sector – I can’t emphasize enough the fact that this is something that impacts a lot of people – and the solution really needs to be relatively comprehensive and involve all those different entities.”
The Perracchio’s home is one of an estimated 30,000 or more houses and condominiums built in eastern and central Connecticut from the mid-1980s to 2016 that could have failing foundations because of the presence of the mineral pyrrhotite in the concrete. It reacts naturally with oxygen and water, causing concrete to crack and crumble over the decades and making some homes unsellable and unlivable.
Fixing the problem can cost $200,000 or more, which is more than some of the homes are worth. Many insurance companies have declined damage claims, leading to lawsuits by homeowners.
Carson was joined by members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation and Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman during the visit with the Perracchios. Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said thousands of homes in Massachusetts also could be affected by the defective concrete, which has been traced to a Willington quarry that provided material to a concrete maker whose product was using in thousands of homes.
“This is a crisis here in Connecticut and we need help,” Murphy said.”The state legislature is trying to do their part, but we need help from our colleagues in Washington as well.”
Murphy and fellow Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal are sponsoring two bills that would provide $200 million in aid over five years to homeowners with failing foundations. Half the money would come from Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation this year that would generate $10 million annually in aid for those homeowners over 10 years, by adding a $12 annual surcharge to the insurance policies of every Connecticut homeowner.
For the Perracchios, who bought their home in 1991, the aid might not come soon enough. Maggie Perracchio said the current plan is for her, her husband and their 14-year-old son to stay in the house until the fall. Then they’ll probably have to find somewhere else to live.
“We know we’re not going to last much longer here,” she said. “I hope that he (Carson) was able to appreciate the impact from a structural perspective. I’m only going to hope that he has a full appreciation for the extent of the damage. Hopefully he’ll take that back with him. I was very honored that someone of his level in government took the time to come out and see the problem.”
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