Baltimore residents will no longer lose their home if they can’t afford a water bill

The Water Taxpayer Protection Act highlights the importance of keeping water public in the age of privatization.

Despite President Donald Trump saying he has the “Best Economy,” most Americans continue to struggle to pay the bills.

Well, not the top 1 percent. The average Wall Street bonus has increased 1,000 percent since 1985. If the federal minimum wage had kept pace, it would be $33.51 an hour. Instead, it’s $7.25.

One very important bill that’s getting harder to pay is the water bill. Water rates are unaffordable for more than one in ten households. A 2017 study estimated that a third of Americans won’t be able to afford water bills in just five years.

That’s why what just happened in Baltimore means so much.

Maryland’s state leaders have passed a bill protecting Baltimore’s residents from losing their homes over unaffordable or incorrect water bills.

The city has been allowing investors to buy the right to unpaid water bills, for sometimes as little as $350 owed. If the property owner doesn’t pay the bill in a certain amount of time — plus interest — then the investor has the right to buy the property.

One woman learned from the newspaper that her home was up for tax sale because of a $1,500 water bill she couldn’t afford to pay with her disability check.

No one should lose their home for being unable to afford a basic human need like water.

Passing the bill was a fight years in the making, led by organizations like Food and Water Watch and Communities United. It was made possible by another victory last November, when Baltimore’s residents voted to become the first major city to keep their water supply public for good.

Keeping water public gives us a chance to come together and win policies that help everyone, not just corporations and the wealthy.

People nationwide seem to be waking up to this undeniable truth.

Providence, Rhode Island’s mayor pulled the plug last week on a plan to privatize the city’s water, bowing to pressure from residents concerned that rates would rise.

The town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, is considering taking its sewer system back from multinational corporation Veolia.

The WATER Act, which would provide $35 billion in federal funding for water infrastructure and green jobs, just reached 55 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. Tell your member of congress to cosponsor it here.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee just demanded that the U.S. “specifically describe efforts to remedy the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, as well as efforts to keep water affordable for low-income populations when publicly owned water services are privatized.”

The Trump economy might be smoke and mirrors, but real change is happening like it always has, from the bottom up.

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Dismantling Democracy tells the story of the 40-year conservative attack on government and sketches a pro-public strategy for fighting back. Download it here.

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Jeremy Mohler is a writer and Communications Director for In the Public Interest, a nonprofit that studies public goods and services. He’d love to hear from you: