Lawmakers hope to encourage crumbling foundation loan funds

Markets Associated Press

Two Democratic state senators unveiled legislation Friday they hope will help homeowners pay for expensive repairs for crumbling house foundations.

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Sens. Cathy Osten of Sprague and Tim Larson of East Hartford said the bill, to be considered when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 4, would allow towns to adopt, by a local ordinance, a loan program that could be funded with municipal bonds. They likened it to how municipalities fund local road repairs.

Hundreds of eastern Connecticut homeowners have filed complaints about failing foundations. The problem has been traced to a single quarry that produced a concrete mix containing pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide mineral that apparently has reacted with oxygen and water. The reaction has led to severe cracks in foundations that are expensive to repair.

"We want to present this as an option to municipalities so that in fact we can provide people with a solution to this very, very traumatic problem," Larson said.

Osten called the draft legislation "a piece of the puzzle," adding that lawmakers are considering other legislation and still pushing for federal financial assistance. She hopes the loans might become grants, considering homeowners face repairs averaging $150,000 to $200,000.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create a field office in northeastern Connecticut to assist the state in testing 34,130 homes at risk. In a Nov. 8 letter, FEMA denied the request, arguing that the mixing of concrete and installation of foundations was man-made, not a natural event. However, W. Craig Fugate, FEMA's director, offered a senior staffer to help state officials work with other agencies on a possible remedy.

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"We take very seriously the distress this has caused impacted homeowners and we will continue to explore options as we work to address this very complex issue," said Malloy spokesperson Meg Green.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of North Haven said he was both surprised and disappointed Osten and Larson announced the proposed legislation without any Republicans, accusing them of turning the problem into a political issue. He said both Democrats and Republicans have been working for months on the problem and any solution must be based in bipartisanship.