Shutting the tap
Last year, more than 27,000 Detroit homes had water shut off because of what the city says were unpaid bills. In some neighborhoods, 1-in-5 homes lost water access. To find your neighborhood, type in your Detroit address in the box in the upper right. When the map zooms in, click on the map for more information.
Source: Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Bridge analysis
Detroit’s aggressive water shutoff campaign spared few corners of the city last year, according to a Bridge analysis of newly compiled 2016 city records.
Residential shutoffs last year increased to 27,552 from 23,300 in 2015. The shutoffs hit densely populated neighborhoods in the city’s northeast and northwest corners the hardest, while downtown and Midtown – which have fewer single-family homes – were mostly spared.
Bridge used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the data, which supplied block-level addresses of shutoffs. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department omitted the last two numbers of the addresses to protect the confidentiality of customers.
Bridge compared the records with U.S. Census housing occupancy, poverty and homeownership rates. Bridge found that slightly more than 1 in 10 occupied housing units were disconnected.
Some of the findings were surprising. While shutoffs are rare in affluent neighborhoods (Palmer Woods only had 12 total last year), not all the city’s poorest neighborhoods or those with the most renters had the highest rates of disconnection.
Nearly 60 percent of residents live in poverty in a neighborhood in Southwest Detroit near Michigan and Livernois, for instance, yet only 8 percent of occupied homes were disconnected.
Likewise, in a Brightmoor census tract, only 6 percent of occupied dwellings were shut off, even though 85 percent of homes are rentals.
In East English Village, though, more than 18 percent of occupied homes were disconnected, even though the neighborhood had lower poverty rates than the city average of about 40 percent.
The actual shutoff rate is actually higher than Bridge’s analysis. That’s because the occupied rate includes all types of housing, including apartment complexes, which are typically exempt from shutoffs. Bridge used Census housing data to create the map; it did not have a neighborhood-by-neighborhood breakdown of where water accounts are.
The overall shutoff rate for residential accounts is closer to 1 in 6 (27,552 of 175,000), according to Bridge analysis of city records.
For non-residential accounts – businesses, churches and government buildings – the rate is 1 in 31 (817 of 25,000).