U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson came to Connecticut Monday to learn firsthand about the problems caused by the state’s crumbling concrete crisis. It’s an issue first exposed by the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters three years ago.
Carson spent a half hour in a home ravaged by crumbling concrete. The damage was so bad that he could see daylight through the basement walls, garage doors that no longer close, and parts of the home getting wedged, bowed, and bent by bulging concrete.
“The only thing we did is buy a house, that’s it. And we weren’t expecting all this,” said Vince Perracchio, who owns the home that Carson visited.
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Perracchio happily invited Carson into his home of 27 years so the secretary could see the damage caused by the crumbling concrete. Perracchio says it cost more than $200,000 to fix.
The state has stepped up to help pay for repairs by pledging up to $200 million in financial aid next 10 years. But fearing it won’t be enough, state officials like Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman are asking the federal government for help.
“We’re begging now, I’m begging now,” she told Carson.
The crumbling concrete is a problem that experts say is unique to Connecticut. It’s caused by a naturally occurring mineral from one quarry in Willington. That mineral was part of the concrete used to pour the foundations of hundreds, if not thousands, of homes in the state. When exposed to air and water, the mineral can cause the concrete to crack and crumble.
Blumenthal and Murphy have each proposed $100 million in federal funding for repairs and Murphy extended the invitation to Carson during a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting last month to see the damage and hear firsthand from homeowners.
The repairs can cost upward of $200,000 per home.
The Connecticut legislature passed legislation to add a $12 per year surcharge on every Connecticut homeowner’s insurance policy to help raise $10 million to $12 million per year to help pay for hundreds of people struggling with the concrete problem.
This money is on top of $100 million in state bonding for the problem.
Carson said he was surprised that insurance policies, for the most part, have not covered this kind of damage.
“I'm just flabbergasted that the insurance companies could get away with this", Carson said.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal explained to Carson that after some homeowners sued their insurers for denying coverage in the late 1990s, insurance companies changed policies to only cover the sudden collapse of a basement, not cracking or crumbling.
Blumenthal, among the members of the Connecticut congressional delegation that invited Carson to see the crumbling basement, told Carson, “The insurers knew about this problem before the homeowners did.”
“Wow, that is really rotten,” Carson replied.
The Insurance Association of Connecticut disputes that interpretation, saying in a statement “It is unfortunate that Senators Murphy and Blumenthal have misled Secretary Carson as to what homeowners insurance is and what it is not. Homeowners insurance never covered defective product, and never covered crumbling foundations.”
In terms of Carson’s agency helping out people with crumbling basements, the jury is out. Carson said that while everyone thinks HUD has buckets of money, anything it spends must go through layers of congressional approvals first.