Cracked Houses

Homes all over Arizona are falling apart. Blame the bad soil -- and the lousy construction

He went to talk to the psychologist because he's been tormented by guilt: It was he who brought his mom out to Arizona. It was he who picked out her house.

He remembers his father, a screw machine operator who made $5.25 an hour.

"It was a dirty, noisy, stinky job," he says. "And I think about how hard he worked, and how much they saved to pay off that mortgage in Michigan. And then I think about what happened to it all."

This continuing series looks at home construction defects in the Phoenix area.
Alana Machnicki/Three in a Box
This continuing series looks at home construction defects in the Phoenix area.
Shari Wilson and five of her children
Michelle Paster
Shari Wilson and five of her children

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The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Services Arizona map

The Phoenix shrink/swell map (» web link) shows which parts of the Valley have expansive soil. Red indicates a high potential to swell, yellow is moderate, and green is low.

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His mother has paid nearly $25,000 in rent over the past three years -- some $750 a month from her $1,260 social security check. And all her hard-earned money is tied up in a house that, technically, is worthless.

She can't resell it, not without putting more money into fixing it. And she can't live in it.

And so Ron Kaleta is angry, too. Angry about the shortcuts that Del Webb took, and angry that they now won't take responsibility for fixing them.

If they knew the area had soil problems, he says, why not just tell them?

Why not urge them to put on gutters?

And why not tell them that, for an extra $2,000, they could have a post-tension slab, and explain why it mattered?

Kaleta would have said yes, he insists.

Instead, he's stuck spending thousands, and watching as the builder stalls and his mother's home sits empty.

And she sits in a rehab center.

"They don't seem to care about her at all," he says, and his voice breaks as he squints into the Arizona sun. "I think they're just waiting for her to die."

Next week: The state agencies in charge of protecting homeowners don't stop bad builders. Why you shouldn't look to the Arizona Legislature for help.

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arvinlexor
arvinlexor

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