Sandy leaves some tough calls in Conn.

Stark decisions on coast

Keith Rhodes of Fairfield, who is elevating his house about 5 feet, faces big costs.
Keith Rhodes via AP
Keith Rhodes of Fairfield, who is elevating his house about 5 feet, faces big costs.

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Jackie Beagon loved her life along the Connecticut coast, where she and her husband walked to the beach and church and bicycled around the neighborhood. But Hurricane Sandy ripped it all apart, and the couple had to sell their flood-ravaged home in Fairfield, where they had lived for a quarter of a century.

‘‘We were extremely overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do,’’ Beagon said. ‘‘The money just kept adding up. We didn’t just lose a place to sleep. We lost 25 years of our life.’’

Beagon and her husband, James, who are renting an apartment in Stratford, are among hundreds of homeowners in Connecticut facing stark choices after the storm flooded their homes four months ago: Sell, demolish and rebuild, or elevate. Some are selling because it’s too costly or overwhelming to rebuild, while others are taking on huge debts and enduring many months out of their homes while they repair and elevate.


In flood zones, houses must comply with current sea level elevation requirements if the cost to repair damage exceeds half the value of the structure, excluding the value of the land, officials say. In Connecticut, about 3,000 homes were damaged by Sandy, including about 500 that received major damage, state officials said.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

In Fairfield, 100 to 200 homes had that level of damage and homeowners will have to elevate, demolish, or sell, said Jim Wendt, assistant planning director. So far, 12 permits have been issued to elevate houses, he said.

‘‘The shoreline is going to be more resistant to flood damage than it was before,’’ Wendt said, ‘‘unfortunately at a fairly high cost to a lot of folks.’’

Keith Rhodes, a 44-year-old marketing executive in Fairfield, has been out of his house since the late October storm and figures his family won’t be back until May. His wife is due to give birth about two weeks later in June.

Rhodes, who is elevating his house about 5 feet, gutting the first floor, and replacing the foundation, figures his out-of-pocket expenses will be around $200,000 after exhausting the maximum flood insurance coverage of $250,000. He’s had to borrow against retirement accounts and is counting on a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration. If the loan doesn’t come through, he said, ‘‘I’m going to call the bank of dad.’’


Homeowners in flood zones who have flood insurance can get up to $30,000 to help pay the cost to elevate their homes, far less than the estimates some are receiving from contractors.