By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
One of the more disturbing trends in new home construction is the use of unsuitable building sites. Over the past few years, I have read an increasing number of reports of owners that had to walk away from their homes because of unsafe conditions caused by movement of earth beneath their properties.
The causes of that earth shifting have varied. Some homes have been built on landslides, some on geologic fault lines. Others have been built on steep and unstable hillsides, former landfills, sinkhole-prone sites, simply too close to raging rivers or ocean surf.
Sometimes the development plan adds to problems with careless storm water diversion, or the construction permit does not strictly require adequate infill soils or foundation fortifications. Even if the permit requires specific construction standards, who is monitoring the quality of the work and enforcing those standards?
Many local governments lack sufficient funding for well-trained inspectors. Some work exclusively with private contractors to conduct inspections on the site before, during, and after construction. Sometimes the local municipality or county will simply rely on the developer’s own choice of engineer or geotechnical specialists to certify the work.
So although most municipalities and counties have various agencies that are supposed to review and approve development plans before issuing construction permits and certificates of occupancy, it seems too many home sites do not meet even basic health and safety standards.
In some cases, local planning officials, developers, and Realtors are aware of risks posed at certain home sites, but no one discloses those risks to home buyers.
Today I share three more examples.
Terra Nativa subdivision in Boise, Idaho: several homes condemned, located on a fault line. Engineering reports prior to construction failed to identify historic records of landslides in the area. Lawsuits are pending against developers, the HOA, Realtors, and the city of Boise, as well as the local highway district.
Owner of sliding Foothills home: A year full of stress, but it ‘hasn’t ruined us’
By Sven Berg, Idaho Statesman
Eric Rossman said he and his wife have “gutted” their house on North Alto Via Court in the Boise Foothills, filling three storage units with windows, doors, cabinets and other salvageable items.
The family plans to use those materials someday to build a new house to replace the one they were still living in less than a year ago — the same house that started breaking apart last spring thanks to a slow-moving landslide beneath it.
“The storage units are quite expensive, and then getting someone to use all that stuff is almost as costly as building a house,” Rossman said. “And then transporting it, paying movers to move all that stuff. It’s quite an expense.”
Wandermere Estates, a gated golf community in a luxury home subdivision near Spokane, Washington. Two homes that sit atop a steep hillside supported by a stone retaining wall. Earth movement appears to be caused by excess groundwater at the site, which reportedly has a history of water seepage from the retaining wall. Homeowners have retained attorneys as investigation continues.
Officials search for reasons two upscale Wandermere homes’ foundations became unstable
Wed., April 19, 2017, 6 a.m.
By Chad Sokol
In January, Dr. Joel McCullough agreed to pay $595,000 for a home in the upscale Wandermere Estates neighborhood north of Spokane.
At the end of March, he was told to get out, or risk his safety.
McCullough’s house and the one beside it are considered too dangerous to occupy as the ground beneath them shifts because of excess moisture. Officials placed signs on the doors last month and more recently installed plastic fencing around both properties. The signs warn: “Danger!!! Do not enter the area!!!! Unstable ground and falling debris.”
Hood County, north Texas, along the shoreline of the Brazos River. The rear retaining wall and deck support of this home have slid right into the river below. The home has been deemed unsafe to inhabit. Homeowners say the Pecan Plantation HOA has overdeveloped the area, funneling excess storm water along the river banks, eroding the land supporting their home. The Brazos River has a history of flooding. (Yet the developer was permitted to build homes along the river bank.) Last year nearby neighborhoods not normally affected by flooding experienced backup of storm sewers into their streets, yards, and some homes.
Couple Blames HOA for Crumbling Home
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HOOD COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – A Hood County home is slowly crumbling into the Brazos River.
It owner, Mark Hall, says he first noticed something was wrong a year and a half ago, when he woke to find part of his patio missing.
“The whole wall was gone,” he remembers. “It went down the hill, and I thought, ‘My god, what am I standing on?’ ”
He and his wife, Susan, had been struggling over whether to sell their home, which at the time was worth an estimated $400,000.
“Our heart and soul went into the house,” said Susan.
Now, they can’t find anyone willing to take it off their hands.
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