The impact of water charges on households
The Fine Gael/Labour Government recently announced that it intends to implement water metering and rolling out water charges from 2015. Indeed, the company tasked to administer the roll out and implementation, Irish Water, is now up and running.
However there remain many unanswered questions as to how this will work in practice. There is obviously a fairness issue in that all households have seen new taxes such as the household charge and now the property tax being imposed at a time of high unemployment and decreasing wages.
The big questions are how this plan will be implemented, what the timescales are for roll-out and what will the overall cost be. One sizable group that seems to have been forgotten about are people living in apartments. The most recent Census indicated that there are nearly 5,000 apartments in the Swords Electoral area, with nearly 11,000 individuals living in this type of accommodation. How this will affect apartment owners and tenants remains to be seen. Neither the Minister Phil Hogan nor Irish Water seems to have an adequate answer.
For example the Irish Water website states the following in relation to people living in apartments:
“Apartments will not be metered during phase 1 of the meter installation programme; therefore apartments will be issued with an unmetered bill. It is expected the Commission of Energy Regulation (CER) will announce the tariffs for unmetered bills in 2014, with Irish Water beginning to bill customers from Quarter 1 2015.”
“Irish Water is currently looking at options for further phases of the metering programme. Apartments will be a part of this analysis. When final details regarding tariffs and billing are available from the Commission for Energy Regulation, we will be able to clarify your situation further.”
Considering that apartment living exploded during the boom years it is lamentable that this large group of people is now effectively an afterthought. It’s also worth remembering that people living in apartments all pay significant service charges as well as the property tax. What we are seeing now is the implementation of a third source of taxation, yet the authorities simply want to issue unmetered bills to people living in apartments.
Ironically one of the reasons water metering is being rolled out is to preserve water, however that seemingly applies to houses only. To treat apartment residents in a different manner is deeply unfair. An equitable solution to this issue must be found now. It is too big to ignore.