root - Posted on 16 November 2008

Translation: raising water prices on the people

by Bruce Allison/PNN correspondent

In recent years, I have become very familiar with the word passthrough. A Passthrough represents more than an insignificant or minor rent increase. To very low income residential tenants, such as me, passthroughs are drastic rent increases that further aggravate our bare wallets and money purses. Passthroughs are largely responsible for increasing my rent by more than fifty dollars in the previous several years; and a recently proposed passthrough will once again increase my rent in the near future. I, a native San Franciscan, poverty scholar and very-low income resident, may face another passthrough that will affect my living situation.

In July of 2002, San Francisco's Land Use Committee of the Department of Public Works, better known as the water department, promoted water conservation by increasing charges for water and sewer services. Now, Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier and Carmen Chu wish to allow landlords to charge their tenants fifty percent of the water rate increase. On average, this passthrough will increase San Francisco rent rates by eight dollars a month.

As a San Francisco resident who earns $775 a month and pays $568 for rent, this passthrough will significantly impact my financial status. Presently, I exercise many money-saving techniques to lower my financial burdens, however, if the passthrough is authorized, I will have to use new economic strategies to earn more money. I am not alone.

A member of the senior action network, who lives in the Gold Gateway apartments, publicly stated that the proposed passthrough will be "a very difficult hardship" that may compel her to vacate her apartment of 30 years.

A Public Utility Commission representative of the water department said that "this is a way to stop tenants from over using water by charging them money for using the water," The representative, however, fails to realize that most of the landlords will charge tenants fifty percent of the water rate regardless of the condition of water pipes of faucets. Tenants who live in homes with poorly maintained water pipes and equipment will have to help landlords pay for their negligence.

The proposal passed during Monday's committee meeting on July 21.

If this passthrough is implemented, several seniors and disabled residents will be unable to pay their rent, which will force them into homelessness. How many more passthroughs will San Francisco renters have to face?


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