The joys of home ownership.

Some people in Jacksonville, Florida are concered about problems such as foundation cracks and mold and mildew in their Habitat for Humanity homes:

The Fairway Oaks owners took their complaints to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, and of 56 who answered a survey for Legal Aid, 41 reported cracked concrete slabs, 22 had cracked walls and 48 said their houses were infested with insects or rodents, presumably because of the cracks. Others reported mold or mildew, nails popping out of plasterboard and other problems. The Habitat for Humanity local affiliate, HabiJax, maintains that the land at Fairway Oaks is stable and that most problems there are housekeeping issues, not structural. City inspectors this month examined six houses and found no violations. But in a vulnerable population, the perceptions have a life of their own. A project built with sweat equity and good will has had unintended consequences, and costs.

Now it seems perfectly reasonable to me that houses built in a volunteer blitz might have the odd problem such as cracked slabs, cracked walls, or popped nails. Every house I have owned has had similar problems. The best build house I ever owned was just outside of Boston, and it even had the occasional problem.

My current house has a pretty decent sized crack in the basement floor, numerous popped nails, and types of mold and mildew the likes of which I have never seen before. It cracks audibly at night. And we don’t have the humidity that Florida has. I can assure you that my house was not built by volunteers, and cost substantially more than the $60,000 figures mentioned in the article.

There are also concerns that the houses were built on a former dump:

In the early 1990s the land held a blighted public housing complex, built on land that had been used, in isolated pockets, as a dump. After complaints by residents, the Environmental Protection Agency tested the soil for contamination. The E.P.A. concluded that the land was safe but noted that two buildings had been demolished because of soil settling, possibly caused by debris decomposing under the soil. A later soil test found elevated levels of arsenic, but the Florida Department of Health determined there was no significant health risk.

This is more common than one would think, and it is typically the city that doesn’t bother to tell the homeowners, as in this local case a few years ago:

In 1998, thirty-five families on Ralgreen Crescent in Kitchener filed a lawsuit against the City for $65 million because of damages caused by an old municipal landfill site. Their homes were built on or near the landfill. The residents have been experiencing illnesses suspected to be caused by landfill gases leaking into their basements. Structural damage, including large cracks in the foundations, exterior walls and floors and garages, has occurred in their homes. The residents claim that the shifting of the ground as the garbage decomposes causes this damage.

The city never bothered to mention the problem when these people were buying their homes either.

The important thing to note here is that ho matter where your home is, who built it, or how much you paid for it, you are going to experience the occasional problem, though some will certainly be worse that others.

Home ownership, much like life, is a gamble. And generally a pleasant one.


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