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There is 'zero incentive' to save water resource

I own a 25-unit apartment building in Lake Oswego (on North Shore Boulevard) with 17 of those units being small studio apartments. I have watched my water bill go from $700 every two months to $4,000 every two months in a three-year time period.

I pass these expenses on to my tenants as much as I can. The water bill is not really a water bill at all but rather a residence tax. Less than 10 percent of the bill is for usage.

I have some units at 300 square feet and some at 1,600 square feet. All pay the same, except not really. I need to charge 14 percent of the rent to my studio customers and 5 percent of the rent to my townhouses for water because of the way the utility is calculated.

If I had a large home and I rented it out I would only have to charge 2 percent of the rent for utilities. This tax is the most regressive I have ever seen. It certainly is discriminatory and on par with some of the covenants that used to be in Lake Oswego.

I did some further investigation into apartments for rent in Clackamas County. On the day I looked there were 206 units available for under $795 in the county but only one for that amount in Lake Oswego. Utility costs are apparently putting the squeeze on low-cost apartments in the city. As I raise rents to cover these costs, I am losing tenants who cannot afford to live there.

I live in Seattle. There is about a $6 charge per meter and the rest of the charge is based on actual usage. It has the effect of changing behavior to save a valuable resource. The policy that is now in place in Lake Oswego encourages waste. I have zero incentive to change toilets or shower heads with such a policy in place. I would like to see the billing cost go to use, not just a tax on number of units.

Howard Langeveld, a Seattle resident, owns an apartment building in Lake Oswego.

(Editor’s note: Christine Kirk, public affairs manager for the city, responds: “The rate of increase at Mr. Langeveld’s multi-family property was much greater than what increases in utility rates can explain. The property’s history and billing was reviewed. The vast majority of the increase was the result of a 2010 audit finding the complex in question was coded as a single-family residence, not a 25-unit complex. Audits are an important way to find anomalies, ensure equity in the system and make appropriate adjustments. The majority of the increase is the result of properly coding the property as a 25-unit complex. Also, in response to Mr. Langeveld’s letter, multifamily complexes have both a fixed rate and a rate based on volume, although there is not a tiered billing structure for usage as exists for residences. The city manager has reviewed the history and responded directly to Mr. Langeveld with detailed information in response to his communication with the city.”)




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