Kenora landlord Wes Siemens is lobbying city hall to change its policy on water meters.

"This is nothing more than a cash grab," he says.

Siemens owns eight apartment buildings, as well as rental homes. He estimates the change will cost him $60,000 a year, and according to the Landlord and Tenant Act, he isn't able to pass along the added expense to his tenants.

"In the short term, it's going to hurt landlords big time. In the medium term, what's going to happen is -- as soon as we get vacant units that turn over -- we can reset those rents to whatever, but now we're trying to catch up for the one guy that turns over. It's going to go up astronomically," he adds.

While candidates for council were asked in the fall campaign to pledge their support for new affordable housing developments, Siemens emphasizes the water meter issue discourages landlords of existing units, as well as developers looking at the construction of new ones.

Jeff Hawley's the operations manager for the city, and he says they simply want to level the playing field, so everybody pays more their fair share of the costs associated with maintaining the city's water and sewer system.

"Right now, our sewer and water bylaw requires that any new buildings being built have a water meter for each of the units being built. We could've required that the existing buildings had water meters retroactively put in to each of the living units, but that would've meant renovations in each one of the living units and would've been quite costly," Hawley said, noting there's still a meter to measure consumption for the building as a whole.

In recent years, ratepayers have seen significant increases in their utility bills -- both on hydro and water rates -- as the province moved to get caught up on reserves for fixing aging systems.

A delegation is set to visit council next week Tuesday to revisit the issue.

For more information:

Water bills causing concern

Seniors press candidates on housing

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