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Housing issues affect everyone in Connecticut, from those who are searching for a safe place to live, to those who may find it increasingly difficult to afford a place they already call home.WNPR is covering Connecticut's housing and homelessness issues in a series that examines how residents are handling the challenges they face. We look at the trends that matter most right now, and tell stories that help bring the issues to light.

Blumenthal, Murphy Look To Federal Government For Help With Crumbling Foundations

Mary Anne Williams

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are pushing two separate federal bills to secure the same goal: at least $100 million in federal aid for state residents that are affected by crumbling foundations.

“The federal government must provide ample, direct aid to homeowners and businesses with crumbling foundations,” Blumenthal said. “I have visited families and business owners who continue to suffer extreme financial and emotional stress-- compounded by the utter failure of our institutions to provide direct aid they need and deserve.”

The issue affects towns in northern Connecticut and central Massachusetts located near theBrimfield Schist. Concrete from that area was poured into these structures. It included a mineral called pyrrhotite. And when pyrrhotite is met with an abundance of water or oxygen, it can result in an acid effect that causes the foundation to fail.

Blumenthal’s bill seeks a total of $100 million over five years directly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Connecticut residents would be able to apply for that money.

Murphy’s proposal is $100 million in aid from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that would supplement assistance funds already set up by the state.

“Senator Blumenthal and I teamed up together to introduce a package of bills to try to provide some relief to these homeowners,” Murphy said. “Getting federal funds will no doubt be an uphill fight, but we don’t want to leave any rock unturned.”

Both acknowledged they face an uphill battle, mainly because some of their colleagues may see this as something that’s just a local issue.

Tim Heim, founder of the Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements, said it’s a significant issue that’s transcending the local level.

“This affects 25 percent of the state of Connecticut,” Heim said. It’s having a major impact on the grand list—mill rates are going to have to go up in each of the thirty-something towns that are affected to offset the grand list reduction. Property values are going down. It just goes on and on and on. Not only is it a state of Connecticut issue -- it’s a Massachusetts issue.

Heim founded CCACB after he was told his house in Willington was in disrepair because of the bad concrete and it would cost $200,000 to fix. He’s happy that the senators are taking up the cause, but he’s hoping they follow through.

“A lot of hard-working families are being devastated in dealing with this crisis because they’ve just lost their biggest investment that they’ve worked for all of their lives,” Heim said. “If Sen. Blumenthal and Sen. Murphy can obtain and work hard into achieving more remediation for the homeowners, I absolutely support it.”

In addition to this aid, the senators are hoping that insurance companies will eventually pay up to provide assistance to residents with crumbling foundations.

“Direct federal aid must be a part of the solution, but we also must hold insurance companies accountable for unacceptably denying these homeowners the compensation they are due,” Blumenthal said.

The senators are co-sponsoring each other’s bill.

Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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