The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

An Expensive Drink of Water

Jul 17, 2017

Once again, water rates are rising for Baltimore, after a period in which what people paid had already increased 300%. And the cost, which also includes sewage rates, puts at least a thousand homeowners per year at risk of losing homes over unpaid water bills.

For decades homeowners and renters in Baltimore paid a “minimum” no matter how much water they actually used. In other words, small households subsidized the entire system. But that money was not used to maintain a system of water and sewage pipes put in 100 years ago.

So now, the new billing system forces everyone to pay a monthly fee of $27.40 for repairing the infrastructure. This fee alone is MORE than what a small household would pay for monthly water usage. No matter how little people wash or clean or flush, the fees are a large part of the water bill.

What have city officials done to the water system to “improve it”? First they charged everyone to switch to a new digital meter system and a new monthly billing system. Next they didn’t collect millions of dollars each year from some businesses. Best example: Bethlehem Steel went out of business leaving city residents stuck for seven million dollars in unpaid water bills. Nor did the city collect from subsequent steel owners using the old Bethlehem mills and equipment.

The city housing department cannot say whether there are 20,000 or 40,000 vacant homes, nor can they state how many are vacant. But a housing blogger estimates that HALF the empty properties in Baltimore are owned by real estate speculators, holding a property in hopes of making money when the area improves to allow building more expensive homes in the future. The city estimates it will lose two million dollars a year on these vacant properties getting a lower water rate.

And it is homeowners and renters who are left paying the bills.