Water costs burst community's pocket books

New Holly, Wash.--Sidney Carter speaks in a sure, careful cadence that makes you want to listen. He’s well known in his New Holly neighborhood, and you can find him knocking on neighbors’ doors, passing out petitions to sign or just chatting them up. The topic he brings to the doors is always the same -- the Seattle Housing Authority is not helping low income residents of New Holly pay what they can afford for their utilities. Some residents are paying more than half of their monthly incomes in rent and utility bills.

Carter has lived in the area for over many years -- before it was renamed “New Holly.” He has seen reconstruction, new parks, renamed roads and a steady, expensive increase in his utility bill.

“I’ve lived here for a long time,” Carter said. “And all those years the water prices have been too high.”

New Holly has a thriving immigrant population, with many cultures blending together as more people move there. The new neighbors join the community and get a sense of connection. The families just begin to get settled -- then they get their utility bills.

“I’ve seen folks move in and then after three months, have to move out again,” Carter said. “The prices of their utilities are so high it’s cheaper to live somewhere else.”

Carter wants to stay in the community and he wants to be able to afford it. He is getting involved with Working Washington and his community because he believes that if you stick together with others you can then bring about change.

He wants to help fix the utilities problem because he has a daughter going to college and she will need a home when she returns. He wants to be able to welcome her back to New Holly.

“I’ve lived here for 12 years,” Carter said. “I want to live here for another 12.”

Carter isn’t the only one who wants to find a solution. Many of his neighbors have decided to tackle the high costs of the utility bills by meeting up and brainstorming solutions.

The meetings are a mixture of English and Somali as residents talk out their plans to work with the Seattle Housing Authority to come to agreements that are mutually beneficial. They want an agreement that will give them the tools they need to make more informed decisions and requests.