Owners of older homes may qualify for earthquake retrofit grants

Owners of older homes may

qualify for earthquake retrofit

grants

If you own an old house that could topple from its foundation during a catastrophic earthquake, there may be immediate relief.

Starting this week, owners of older single-family homes across parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in 18 cities across the state may qualify for a $3,000 state seismic retrofit grant to fix them.

“You wouldn’t feel safe driving a car that has no seat belts, and you shouldn’t feel safe living in a house that hasn’t been bolted to its foundation,” said Janiele Maffei , chief mitigation officer for the California Earthquake Authority and executive director for an Earthquake Brace + Bolt program administering the grants, in a statement.

“To protect their families and most valuable asset, all Californians should ensure their homes are properly braced and bolted.”

More than 1.2 million houses across California that were built before 1979 are especially at risk of falling from their foundations during a temblor, state emergency officials say, because they’re not bolted to their foundations.

Such homes often include a crawl space under the house, and “cripple walls” between the foundation and first floor that are vulnerable to collapse, causing a home to slide off its foundation.

In the 6.0-magnitude Napa earthquake of August 2014, old unbolted homes got hit with repair bills of up to $300,000.

So the state Earthquake Brace + Bolt program is dispensing $4.8 million — $3 million from the state and $1.8 million from the California Authority’s Loss Mitigation Fund — to offer a simple and relatively cheap fix to reduce damage.

Homeowners in more than 100 zip codes, including Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino and San Bernardino, have until Feb. 20 to apply for up to $3,000 for seismic retrofits.

The repairs, which involve bolting a house to its foundation and bracing the crawl space around the house, can range from $2,000 to $10,000, officials say.

Homeowners can apply for funding at EarthquakeBraceBolt.com, which also has a list of trained contractors.

The Earthquake Brace + Bolt program is run by the California Residential Mitigation Program, a joint powers agency created five years ago by the earthquake authority and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to buttress homes against earthquake damage.

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Officials say communities hit by even a moderate earthquake such as Napa recover more quickly if damage can be prevented and people allowed to remain in their homes.

“We know that cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles are aggressively preparing for the next Big One,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who wrote a bill last year to secure the seismic retrofit grant money. “But the state of California is also stepping up.”

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