U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson told homeowners with a failing foundation that the department is committed to finding a solution to the crisis.
“I can’t emphasize enough, this is something that impacts a lot of people, all of us. And the solution really needs to be comprehensive and involve all those entities,” Carson said Monday as he got a firsthand look at a Connecticut home with a crumbling foundation. “But we are fully committed to working with the other entities to see this resolved.”
Carson’s visit to Maggie and Vincent Perracchio’s Willington home came after U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy invited him last month to view the damage.
Murphy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal are cosponsoring federal legislation that would provide homeowners with $200 million in funding to make repairs. Half of the money would come from Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development and the other half would be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Perracchio family showed Carson around their four-bedroom colonial on their rural property.
The usually quiet street was lined with cars ahead of Carson’s visit and the Perracchios’ house was filled with TV cameras, reporters, congressional staffers and federal employees.
In their family room, the Perracchios showed Carson the light from outside that was filtering in through a wall that had become separated from the rest of the house.
“This room is detaching itself from the house,” Maggie Perracchio said.
Downstairs, in their unfinished basement, thick cracks run horizontally across the foundation walls.
“We found the first cracks on that basement wall,” Vincent Perracchio told Carson. “It started small.”
When their basement walls eventually breach, they said, the house likely won’t collapse, but will tilt to one side.
Even so, Vincent Perracchio said he has told his 14-year-old son to “grab the dog and run to the neighbors’ if he hears a bang and the house starts to shake.”
The house is already pretty noisy, the couple said.
As the concrete breaks down and the house shifts upward, “It creaks. It makes wonderful banging noises at all times of day,” Vincent Perracchio said.
As Carson walked around the house, he listened to the Perracchios and made small observations.
“Insurance doesn’t cover this?” he asked.
Insurance companies have denied homeowners' claims, saying the problem does not qualify for coverage under their definition of collapse, they explained to Carson. Homeowners have been left to bear the burden of a repair, which can cost as much as $200,000.
“The insurance industry is deeply sympathetic to what the homeowners are experiencing,” said Eric George, president of the Insurance Association of Connecticut. “Unfortunately this is not something covered by insurance companies.”
George added, “We are, however, very encouraged that federal officials are getting involved.”
The Perracchios’ house is one of potentially 34,000 homes in 36 towns in Connecticut with crumbling foundations.
According to a state report, a mineral known as pyrrhotite — used in the concrete aggregate — is partly to blame.
The problem was thought to be limited to Connecticut, but homes in Massachusetts have also started showing symptoms of foundation failure.
“This is not just Connecticut,” Murphy said. "This is into Massachusetts, as well. Though the attention is mostly on Connecticut, we think there are thousands of homes in Massachusetts affected, as well.”
After touring the home, state officials appealed to Carson to find a way to help the homeowners.
“There is no substitute for seeing this problem in living color,” Rep. Joe Courtney said. “I want to thank you for coming out to eastern Connecticut.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who lives in Tolland, a town that has been hit particularly hard, told Carson: “We’re begging you. These families really need your help.”
Carson appeared optimistic about finding a solution.
“If we decide to work together we can get this done … We all should care about our neighbors,” he said. “If we adopt that feeling of caring, we can do it.”