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Water rate hike coming

We knew this was coming, and now here it is.

Mayor Annise Parker’s administration is proposing drastic water and sewer rate increases to shore up Houston’s Combined Utility System, which has operated with multimillion-dollar budget deficits for several years.

The estimated rate hike under the proposal, presented to City Council on Tuesday, would be about 12.5 percent for residential water users, increasing from about $47 a month for the average household use of 6,000 gallons of water to about $53.

Those who live in apartments would face a far higher increase, in many cases greater than 50 percent, although that aspect of the proposal could change in the coming weeks, city officials said. Across all classes of ratepayers, including multifamily and commercial users, the proposed increase comes to about 25 percent.

That earlier story said the increase was to be 14 percent, which “would equate to about a $3-a-month increase for the average residential water user”. This story talks about what it would mean for households at the 6000 gallon per month and 10,000 gallon per month levels; the latter would go from $74.39 to $90.34, an increase of $15.95. That’s a 21% addition, so it seems this is not a flat rate hike. The good news is that it means that if you use less than 6000 gallons per month, your increase will be smaller.

It’s not clear why the rate of increase is higher for apartments – the sidebar example shows a multifamily dwelling that had been paying $72.97 now paying $104.91. That’s something that ought to be reviewed to ensure fairness, and I’m glad to see that the Department of Public Works and Engineering has agreed to make revisions based on concerns raised by Council. And while it looks like this means the city is going to more of a tiered rate structure, I don’t see any mention of conservation measures, which I hope are in the works as well. We’ll see what this looks like when it comes back to Council for a vote.

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3 Comments

  1. I am serving as a Board Member for a condominium complex. We are a low income, mostly minority residence. The proposed 50% rate increase or even 25% will be devasting to our resident/homeowners who are still trying to recover from Hurricane Ike. Unfortunately the Board had no choice to pass the shortfall of the wind insurance on to the homeowners; they will be paying this amount over a six (6) month period. We realize we will be losing some of our resident/homeowners to foreclosure. Our Declarations demand we pass the shortfall to the homeowners; plus, we had some repairs from Hurricane Ike that needed to done. Our property has a water conservation program; we check for water leaks in units and force homeowners to make the repairs. The water conservation program helps keep our water and sewer bill low; so, we can make repairs and upgrades on the property and put some money into the almost depleted “reserve fund”. If we pass another increase to the homeowners; I do not know if they will or will be able to pay. The foreclosure rules helps the first mortgagee; when an Association forecloses, the first mortgagee does not have to pay the HOA fees; until, they foreclose; leaving the condominium association with less money to operate. We have many units that we have foreclosed and can not collect HOA fees from the balance of the mortgage is too high for us to sell the unit and the first mortgagee will not foreclosed, leaving condominiums strapped for money. The rate increase passed on to multifamily properties is ludicrous; many condominiums that house low income folks will close. Low income homeowners will lose their homes! The affluent will be able to buy these properties for pennies on the dollar.

  2. [...] Mayor Bob Lanier has an op-ed in today’s paper in support of Mayor Parker’s proposed water rate hike. I believe Mayor Parker will work with council members, homeowner associations and the Houston [...]

  3. [...] we know, a water rate hike of about 12 percent was proposed by Mayor Parker earlier this month. That ran into some resistance from apartment [...]

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