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The City of Portland, Oregon

Nick Fish (In Memoriam)

City of Portland Commissioner

phone: 503-823-3589


1221 S.W. 4th, Room 240, Portland, OR 97204

Helping Our Neighbors Pay Their Utility Bills

February 13, 2018

During Portland’s housing crisis, some of our neighbors need extra help paying their utility bill.

Today, Council held a work session to review our proposal to help cost-burdened renters.

The Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services have a nationally-recognized financial assistance program. But historically it didn’t reach people living in multi-family housing. The challenge is that many apartment buildings only have one meter, and many renters don’t have a utility account (instead, landlords include water and sewer in the rent).

To reach cost-burdened renters, we’ve proposed a partnership with Home Forward. The utility bureaus would contribute up to $500 annually for a low-income household that pays utilities through rent. Home Forward would then incorporate utility assistance into an existing, proven program they manage for low-income renters.

Today’s proposal includes other solutions to expand the financial assistance program, including lowering the bar to qualify and creating a single point of contact for customers to get help.

Special thanks to Gabe Solmer, Kathy Koch, Liam Frost, all the Water Bureau customer service staff, Home Forward, and the many community partners who provided input and joined us today.


Helping Low-Income Ratepayers

Nick Fish Blog


Cracking the Code: How We're Helping Renters in Need Afford Their Utility Bills

Portland Water Blog


Utility Financial Assistance Slides

Work Session Presentation


Water Bureau Proposes Fix for Decades-Old Bill Assistance Program

Molly Harbarger in The Oregonian


Portland Water Bureau Aims to Expand Assistance to At-Risk Renters

Joanne Zuhl in StreetRoots


Council Supports Expanding Utility Relief Program

Jim Redden in the Portland Tribune


Council to Consider Low-Income Utility Relief Plan Tuesday

Jim Redden in the Portland Tribune