BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Baltimore’s poorest residents are finding it beyond their ability to keep up with their water bills. According to our media partners at The Baltimore Sun, it’s due to the increases in the price of water.
Roger Colton, an independent economist, says the city could find itself in a “downward spiral,” and be forced to impose larger price increases to pay for court-ordered infrastructure upgrades.
Advocates for poor Baltimore residents who commissioned the study say the findings boost the case for City Council to come up with a water affordability package. The proposal would cap bills for low-income households at an affordable proportion of their income. If people fall behind on their bills and end up in the city’s tax sale system, they could be at risk of losing their homes.
Rudy Chow, Baltimore’s Director of Public Works says his department is considering ways to improve existing programs, including discounts for seniors and help people who fall behind on their bills. Under these programs, The Baltimore Sun found thousands of people are missing out on aid that is available under these programs.
Colton says in 8 percent of the city’s census tracts, the poorest fifth of households face water bills costing more than 20 percent of their income. By 2019, he says water won’t be affordable for households making $36,450 for a family of four. A third of city households make that much or less.