Detroit's Lifeline Plan to make water affordable for low-income residents

Activists have been calling on the city of Detroit to make water affordable to help low-income residents keep their water on. Now, eight years after protesters first started the call, the city has a lifeline plan in place.

On Tuesday, the city of Detroit announced the city's first water affordability plan named the Detroit Lifeline Plan. It offers plans for qualifying customers to pay as little as $18 per month.

Mayor Mike Duggan acknowledged that previous plans haven't always helped Detroiters

In 2014, protesters demanded the city stop shut-offs.

In 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a moratorium on shutoffs during Covid. That's in place through the end of the year and that's where the new Lifeline Program will come in and help families on SNAP or state food assistance.

"Nobody should be without water because they can't pay," Duggan said. "If you have food assistance and that's 100,000 households in this city, those 100,000 households will have a monthly water bill of $18 a month."

Those not on food assistance but still qualify will pay $43 per month or $56, depending on income. The water bill is calculated using the formula of 1.8% of a household's income.

Households in the lifeline program cannot use more than 4,500 gallons of water a month.  The city says the average usage is between 2,300 and 3,000 gallons per month.

The water plan may be a lifeline but during the water board meeting, some activists expressed concerns.

"We need to normalize this distribution or this support so that it helps all the families - not just those that have three in the home - but those that have 15 in the home," said Mike Shane from Moratorium Now.

The city says they know that water affordability activists still have a lot of questions but the program will keep evolving but they're hoping everyone will be out there to sign people up for this new program.

"Over the next 60 days we're going to work with the advocates to make sure that they understand what the facts are most importantly we need them to go out and find those customers that we haven't been able to find in the past," said DWSD Director Gary Brown.

State and federal funding will pay for the pilot program for the next year or so but work is underway to make that funding permanent.

Some customers will automatically be moved or you can start applying on July 1 here. You can also call 313-386-9727.