City agreement with Seattle Housing Authority would automatically enroll tenants in Utility Discount Program

SEATTLE -- Thousands of Seattle families could see their utility bills cut in half.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Wednesday signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Seattle Housing Authority, to add more than 10,000 families to the city’s Utility Discount Program.

If approved by council members, it would go beyond the goals the mayor wanted to reach by the end of 2018.

“We will have exceeded my goal and enrolled 28,000 households, two years ahead of schedule,” said Mayor Murray, just before signing the agreement with Seattle Housing Authority Director Andrew Lofton.

In 2014, Mayor Murray challenged city departments to double the number of households enrolled in the program, from 14,000 to 28,000, by the end of 2018.

“The addition of the Utility Discount Program for them means that they will not have to choose between turning on heat or buying medicine,” Lofton said.  “They will not have to choose between taking a shower and buying healthy food.  It means they can better manage their finances for their day-to-day lives.”

If approved by the full city council, other utility customers would see an increase in their rates that would be between a half and two-thirds of a percent.

The mayor says the program would help Seattle Housing Authority tenants cut their electric, water, sewer and garbage bills, to an average of $1,030 per year.

“It’s going to benefit me as well as other tenants here, in deciding whether to have water or food, or whatever,” said SHA tenant Ed Frezier.  “It’s going to benefit (us) a lot.”

Frezier's currently receiving disability payments and has a limited income.  He says after he pays the bills for lights, phone and water, there's usually nothing left.

"This will leave me with a few dollars to buy groceries and whatever else is needed,"  he said.  "It's a blessing."

“I look forward to working with the Seattle City Council as they adopt legislation to approve this partnership,”  Mayor Murray said.

SHA tenants would be automatically enrolled, beginning this August.

Once that happens, the program would provide more than $10 million in utility assistance each year.