A new and irate constituency of condo owners has arisen in response to the Water Discount program championed by Councilor Giovanni Recupero and voted on by the City Council Sept. 24 – a proposal that excludes condo owners from the owner-occupied water bill discount.
Recupero proposed the measure in September, after many years of discussing it and proposing it in other forms, to find that it had support and the votes to pass. After a challenge by Councilor Roy Avellaneda last week, the measure stood.
It is to go into effect on July 1, 2019 with the new water rates.
But what it might have lacked in votes on the Council has not deterred the momentum that has grown among those in the City who own condos. Because condo owners don’t have separate water meters in their units, they are excluded from participating in the program along with absentee landlords.
That has ignited a base that continues to protest the move, and has spoken out this week in letters to the newspaper that decry the program and, potentially, others like it that could come down the road.
“Chelsea water and sewer rates are increasing significantly, and the Council’s vote means that those renters, businesses, and 1,861 condos are going to subsidize a discount for 625 owner-occupied, single-family households and 1,149 two- and three-family households,” read a letter written by Sharlene McLean and signed by numerous condo and homeowners. “This decision is blatantly discriminatory as it creates separate classes of homeownership in Chelsea, and privileges residents who have the financial capital to buy and own single or multi-family homes – all at the expense of, among others, condo owners who are also stakeholders in the community, and deserve the same consideration as other homeowners.”
The condo owners wrote that the policy will hurt the entire community. For example, they said houses of worship are not allowed to participate, and neither are businesses.
“Simply put, this is a poorly conceived and exclusionary policy that was rushed to a vote without any meaningful discussion or community input, and that benefits the few at the expense of the many,” they wrote.
The new constituency of condo owners asked that the Council repeal its vote before the new rates go into effect.