April 14, 2015

Public Hearings on the 2015-16 Water and Sewer Rate Increase

by UNHP

‚ÄčThere will be public hearings in each of the boroughs during the last week of April about the latest water and sewer rate increase proposal. Mayor de Blasio's administration is proposing a 3.24% increase to take effect on July 1, 2015.  

UNHP will be testifying against the rate increase at the Bronx Hearings on Wednesday, April 29th at 7pm at Hostos College. While UNHP acknowledges the increase is the lowest in 10 years, UNHP is calling for a freeze this year and a re-evaluation of how water rates are set for affordable housing next year.  

UNHP points out that the cost of water is steadily consuming a larger portion of operating budgets for affordable housing. UNHP questions the fairness of a rate setting formula that charges primarily based on water use. The formula does not acknowledge the reality that exists in much of the City's affordable housing stock, which is frequently comprised of multi-bedroom apartments and larger households. The current rate formula penalizes housing that meets a critical need for affordable apartments for low and moderate income New Yorkers.  

UNHP urges affordable housing leaders to speak out against the proposed rate increase. The City's overall proposal is summarized below along with the rate hearings.

The City's Proposal on Water Rates:

1) The City is proposing a 3.24% increase on water and sewer for FY 2016.  For the second consecutive year, the de Blasio administration is seeking the lowest rate increase in 10 years. There will be public hearings in each of the boroughs during the week of April 27th; details are below.

2) The Mayor is rebating approximately $40 million of the $240 million rental payment paid to the City from the water rates to hold the increase down again this year. The City is expanding the Home Water Assistance Program offering a $116 credit to approximately 59,000 income eligible senior and disabled homeowners and is also extending a rate freeze to customers who receive a minimum bill based on low use.

3) The Multifamily Conservation Program (MCP) rate will increase to $1,007 per apartment per year.  

We are urging people to go to the hearings and testify; the Mayor's DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd and several Board members usually attend each of the hearings.  

1) The Mayor is clearly more conscious of the impact of rising water costs, but thus far his proposals have provided assistance to low income senior and disabled homeowners and ratepayers who use the minimum amount of water. There has been nothing as clear to assist affordable housing.

2) The Water Board is a 7 person board that signs off on the water rate increases. There are many new faces on that board and it would be good for them to hear about the impact that water is having on affordable housing.  

What are we telling the Water Board, City Hall and our City Councilmembers?

a) At UNHP, we are opposing any rate increase; DEP staff quote citywide Rent Guidelines Board data indicating that water and sewer charges are about 6% of a buildings' expense; even with the MCP program, the cost of water in the Bronx is 11% of buildings' expenses. The cost of water in midtown Manhattan is a little over 4% of the budget. The affordable housing community needs to speak up and make sure people understand how big an impact the cost of water is having on our buildings.

b) We are calling on the City to look at a cap on water charges for affordable housing. As long as the building implements conservation plans, buildings with affordable housing regulatory agreements should receive a lower water charge.

What Should we do?

1) Go to the hearings. The DEP Commissioner, Emily Lloyd, usually makes the presentations at the hearings and several board members may be present. It would be good for her to see and hear people's stories directly. UNHP is planning on attending the Bronx hearings (Wednesday, April 29th at 7PM at Hostos College, the 2nd Floor of the Savoy Building at 120 E. 149th Street).

The other borough hearings are:

  • Staten Island -- Monday, April 27th at 7:30 at Bernikow JCC, 1466 Manor Road 
  • Brooklyn -- Tuesday, April 28th at 7PM at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Founders Hall
  • Queens -- Thursday, April 30th at 7PM at LaGuardia Community College, 45-50 Van Dam Street, Conf Rm E-242 

  • Manhattan -- May 1st at 1:30 at City Planning at 22 Reade Street

You can register for the hearings by calling 718-595-3594 or emailing nycwaterboard@dep.nyc.gov

2) If you can't make the hearings, you can submit testimony in writing via email at nycwaterboard@dep.nyc.gov.

3) Whether you go to the hearings or not, you should submit your opinions to the Mayor and your city council representative.