Water rates rising almost $90 to pay for new costs, infrastructure repair in Hamilton

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Published December 14, 2023 at 4:33 pm

Hamilton’s aging water systems have seen a flood of issues in recent years prompting a major project to renew it. However, this process has proven expensive, resulting in a water rate hike for homeowners.

As a result, water and sewer rates are increasing by a little more than 10 per cent next year. Roughly 2.4 per cent of this rise will be used to pay for replacing or rehabilitating aging infrastructure, program delivery and absorbing the impacts of inflation.

This means the average 2023 bill of $877 annually will rise to $965, a $88 jump.

The larger portion of the increase is a result of Ontario’s More Homes Built Faster Act passed last year. The act was ostensibly meant to make building homes easier, but according to Hamilton has made it much more difficult to fund operations. In part, this is due to the Act’s ending of Ontario municipalities’ ability to charge developer fees, which has slashed municipal revenue.

As a result, critics of the bill charge, tax payers are left to pick up the slack. “For the first time, the percentage of the rate budget attributed to provincial legislation will be communicated to homeowners when they receive their water bills in early 2024,” the city wrote.

However, the impact isn’t as harsh as it could have been. Mayor Andrea Horwath has directed the city to pull $17.55 million from City water and sewer reserves to pay for some of the needed investments. The system is in dire need of repairs. As one of the oldest water systems in the country, it dates to the mid-1800s.

“The City is facing urgent infrastructure needs that must be addressed in a responsible manner as we navigate challenging economic realities. I will continue to advocate to our provincial partners to offset these costs and lessen the burden on Hamilton taxpayers,” Horwath said.

The system 5,26o kilometres of water and sewer pipes and more than 250 separate facilities worth more than $14.6 billion. Of that piping, 146 kilometres (about 2 per cent) need major repairs within the next five years.

Due to these needed repairs, the water rates are set to increase 10 per cent every year for the next decade to repair pipes and fund much needed work on the Woodward Water Treatment Plant, the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the Dundas Wastewater Treatment Plant.

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