February 28, 2017

Senator Tim Larson: “We must act and act swiftly in a way that truly creates a solution to crumbling concrete foundations”

Senate Senator Tim Larson (D-East Hartford) today submitted the following testimony to the Public Safety and Security, Insurance and Real Estate, and Planning and Development Committees in support of a bill he authored to help homeowners address crumbling concrete foundations in eastern Connecticut:

As a state senator representing the 3rd District including East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington and South Windsor, I am here to support S.B. 806, An Act Allowing Municipalities to Establish a Grant Program to Replace or Repair Crumbling Concrete Foundations.

This situation has been completely devastating as anyone can imagine, having their largest, single asset literally fall apart beneath them without any recourse whatsoever other than remortgaging their home, essentially paying for it twice. That is not only impractical, but in many cases impossible.

My proposed bill, S.B. 806, would simply give municipalities an option and ability to use bond funds to grant aid to residents who are affected by this horrific situation through no fault of their own.

I am not proposing an unfunded mandate. Towns’ grand lists may have been affected to varying degrees by the number of failing foundations. This gives individual towns the ability to be part of the solution, and to assist their residents grappling with this crisis.

Under this legislation, it would be Voluntary for Municipalities to choose to use this mechanism, and in so choosing, they could decide to use their own formula. For example, they may grant the entire amount of damages or some percentage thereof to in order to make their residents whole.

This issue is too large for any one group of residents who have fallen victim to crumbling concrete to handle entirely on their own. Yes, homeowners must contribute to the solution in some way. But it is up to the towns that collect property taxes and where grand lists stand to be decimated to step up to the plate and help their neighbors.

However, I firmly believe that any real and viable solution will need to be a coalition of partners including residents. Everyone must have some “skin in the game” by virtue of some percentage of the total claim for the repair.

Having the individual towns as a part of this resolution would allow residents to come forward and work on a solution and it would encourage them to hold contractors accountable and ensure costs are contained throughout the repair process.

Additionally, I would suggest that towns could use local assessor’s offices, as well as local building officials, to monitor the progress for their individual residents.

There has been money highlighted by the Attorney General’s office. That funding could be used to help local towns recoup some of the cost and pay off the bonding to repair the homes.

These funds could be used as offsets for individual town’s designated programs. Since this problem could take years to unfold and to rectify, towns could reduce exposure by repeating this process on a rolling basis.

It is up to the banks that hold mortgages on these homes to contribute to the solution so that people don’t walk away from a house that cannot be sold until it is repaired anyway.

It is up to insurance companies and carriers to do right by their customers even if they are not strictly required to due to changes in 1991 to the regulations around peril of collapse.

And it is up to the state and federal government to find programs and existing funding streams to back-fill local towns that do what I believe to be the right thing by making use of the mechanism this bill would put in place to begin the process of repair.

This problem is bigger than eastern Connecticut and the thousands of homes that have been and will be impacted by this. The entire state’s real estate market stands to be impacted by this crisis, and we must act and act swiftly in a way that truly creates a solution without further harming those who have already lost so much.

I look forward to assisting my colleagues in any way I can for a solution for homeowners in Connecticut.