Summit in the Bronx brings together nonprofit, public and private sectors to discuss overhauling the way the City pays for water
In anticipation of the next double-digit water rate hike expected to be announced Friday morning, advocates, researches and City watchdog agencies will come together this Thursday to discuss ways to overhaul the way we pay for water in New York City. Currently, water rates cover much more than the cost of water in and sewage out of their homes—they also cover all of the ballooning capital costs at the filtration plant being built in the Bronx and the UV treatment facility upstate, not to mention a hefty rental payment that will subsidize City coffers by more than $8 billion between now and 2036, according to an estimate by the NYC Comptroller’s Office last fall.
Despite improved collections and enforcement practices taken on by DEP in the past year, including lien sales and shut-offs, double-digit rate increases are expected each year for the foreseeable future. The problem is much bigger than the so-called deadbeats who aren’t paying their bills. DEP’s capital construction plan is the second largest in the City after the Department of Education. But unlike DOE, there is no outside funding to subsidize the cost of the water projects – most federal support has dried up, even as mandates have increased.
These huge increases in the cost of water disproportionately affect lower-income neighborhoods, and our City’s affordable housing stock, much of which was renovated with City funds starting during the Koch administration. Ironically, Mayor Koch’s enormous (and successful) 10 year housing plan announced in 1986 was in large part possible because it coincided with shifting the capital costs of the water system onto rate payers, freeing up money to rebuild the City’s devastated neighborhoods. Nearly 25 years later, rising water and sewer costs threaten the same housing preserved by Koch’s plan.
On hand to discuss the impacts of the water system on affordable housing and conservation efforts at the Water Rate Reform Summit at Fordham University on April 10 will be Marcia Van Wagner, Deputy Comptroller for the NYC Comptroller’s Office, Preston Niblack, Deputy Director of the City’s Independent Budget Office, Harold Schulz, Senior Fellow at the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, Dart Westphal, Executive Director of the Mosholu Preservation Corporation, and John McCarthy, Executive V.P. and Chief Operating Officer of the Community Preservation Corporation. Bronx nonprofit University Neighborhood Housing Program will convene the summit as part of their work on the impact of water rates on affordable housing over the past twenty years.
The report, entitled "Water and Sewer Rate Reform Summit: Can NYC achieve affordable water rates, promote conservation, and control capital costs?" is posted on UNHP's website.