Earlier this year, Nick convened a group of community members and City staff and asked them to explore ways to expand the discount offered by the City’s utility bureaus to low-income customers.
Most renters, especially those in apartment buildings, can’t access the low-income discount because they don’t have their own water meter and utility account with the City. Recognizing that many of the most vulnerable people in our community are not being reached by the current program, including older adults on fixed incomes and families using Section 8 vouchers, Nick asked the work group to think creatively about ways to expand access to the discount program and reach more people.
The report presents some potential solutions to this complex issue, including working more closely with affordable housing providers.
The conversation has already produced results. The Portland Water Bureau, which manages billing for both utilities, has enrolled more customers by working with our local housing authority, Home Forward, to identify renters who qualify for the program.
The bigger challenge is finding a way to reach other low-income Portlanders in the larger rental market. The work group’s recommendations offer possible paths forward.
Brad Schmidt in The Oregonian
Jim Redden in the Portland Tribune