Crumbling concrete | Journal Inquirer

February 25, 2023

Article as published by the Journal Inquirer:


With an additional $100 million needed to entirely fix the state’s crumbling foundations, lawmakers are once again pushing for assistance for the thousands of homeowners still affected.


But a proposal that would eliminate millions of dollars in funding also is on the table.


One of the most significant proposed bills calls for more borrowing for the Crumbling Foundation Solution Indemnity Co., or CFSIC, the captive insurance company that has been fixing foundations, primarily in the northeastern section of the state.

While it is still early in the legislative session and there is not yet a dollar amount attached to the bonding bill, its sponsor, Sen. Jeff Gordon, D-Woodstock, said the final proposal could range anywhere between $50 million and $100 million.


That would be in addition to the $100 million in debt that has already been approved by the legislature, $25 million of which has been allocated, as well as nearly $12 million a year from an annual insurance surcharge deposited in the Healthy Homes Fund.


Gordon said he intentionally left the wording of his proposal vague, but wanted to make sure it was on the radar of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee as well as the State Bond Commission.


“I want to make certain that we’re thinking strategically about trying to line up more money,” Gordon said.


The existing bonding that has been approved, combined with the insurance surcharge funding, is expected to bring in about $170 million by 2030, CFSIC Superintendent Michael Maglaras said.


With an estimated total of about 4,000 affected homes, “we think exactly another $100 million is what we need,” he said.


To date, more than 700 homes have been fixed, and Maglaras expects the 1,000 home mark to be hit by the first quarter of 2025.


“None of that happens at all if the Healthy Homes funds are tampered with,” he said.


Removing surcharge


Perhaps the most controversial proposal related to the crisis is a bill introduced by Sen. Robert Sampson, R-Wolcott, that would make a $12 annual surcharge on certain homeowner insurance policies voluntary.


A large majority of the funding goes towards repairing crumbling foundations, with the remainder going to lead paint abatement.


The most recent installment resulting from the surcharge provided $11.9 million to CFSIC.


Gordon said he’s well aware of the crumbling foundation crisis as his district includes parts of Vernon, Ellington, Stafford, Tolland, and Coventry — a section of the state hit particularly hard.


He’s also a member of the legislature’s crumbling foundation caucus and has recently been appointed as an ex officio director on CFSIC’s board.


“I think they’ve been doing tremendous work,” Gordon said of the captive insurance company.


While noting that more than 700 homes have been fixed, he said: “There’s a lot more to do.” He does not support cutting funding as Sampson’s bill would do.


“I believe that this is not a time for us to back away; it’s time for us to do more to keep the program going,” Gordon said.


Rep. Thomas Delnicki, R-South Windsor, agreed. “I certainly do not endorse or support that bill,” he said of Sampson’s proposal.

The Healthy Homes Fund, in which the $12 annual surcharge is deposited, is “a fund to help make people’s homes safe,” Delnicki said. “I understand where Rob Sampson is coming from, but I certainly don’t agree.”


Sampson did not respond to repeated requests seeking comment on his proposed bill.


If the $12 surcharge were to become voluntary, likely leading to it essentially being eliminated, “it will have a devastating impact on the program,” Maglaras said.


He noted that the timing of the Healthy Homes funding and existing state bonding being delivered to the captive insurance company prevents CFSIC from falling behind.


Other bills on table


Several other measures are in the works that aim to prevent the issue from reoccurring by requiring the quality of concrete used in residential structures to at least meet the standards for commercial structures.


Delnicki introduced one such bill.


“That’s a key and critical thing to take a look at,” he said. “We want to make sure that this problem never surfaces again, that we never have another home with a crumbling foundation again.”


While testing is now mandatory at quarries for pyrrhotite, the mineral known to cause concrete to deteriorate, Maglaras notes that not all concrete aggregate comes from quarries.


Other sources include non-quarry settings, such as when earth is moved in the building of highways.


“Leaving some source of aggregate behind untested is just playing Russian roulette,” Maglaras said.


While he said that he doesn’t want to make residential construction too restrictive, Maglaras does advocate for more quality control at the moment concrete is poured for a residential foundation.


Another proposal aims to prevent homes from being sold if their foundations contain pyrrhotite.


The bill, introduced by the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, would require sellers to answer a series of questions, including whether they have any knowledge of problems with the property.


Information includes when the structure was built, how long the seller occupied the property, whether the foundation is made of concrete, if there is water seepage in the basement, and if there has been any testing or inspection done by a licensed professional related to the foundation.


If the foundation has been tested, the seller would have to disclose the testing method and provide a copy of the report to prospective buyers.


The seller also would have to disclose if there have been any repairs and what they were and disclose whether they have any knowledge of the presence of pyrrhotite in their foundation.


A real estate agent would not be allowed to complete the form on behalf of a seller.


A prospective buyer also would be allowed to have a foundation inspected by a licensed engineer to determine if there is any deterioration from the presence of pyrrhotite.


Delnicki wants to assure those with crumbling foundations that lawmakers will continue to push for legislation until the issue is completely resolved.


“We’re committed to helping the people who are the victims of crumbling foundations,” he said. “No one’s going to forget about it.”