Members of the United Nations Human Rights Commission heard testimony in Detroit this week from citizens who are struggling to secure affordable water and housing.
Nicole Hill is a Detroiter who has had her water shut off twice this year. Hill says the water department tells her she owes more than $6,000 — a number she vigorously disputes.
“I have asked for a hearing, and I was told that I could possibly get a hearing date sometime in 2015,” she said.
For Mignon Jennings, the cost of her water bill has put her in danger of losing her Detroit home.
“$3,000 for a water bill for one year? That’s ludicrous. That’s crazy. And I believe something needs to be done.”
The UN panel has criticized Detroit’s policy of cutting water service to people with delinquent bills.
Panel members issued recommendations on the situation Monday. They also met with Mayor Mike Duggan.
Duggan's chief of staff, Alexis Wiley, defended the administration's response to the water shutoffs, pointing out that the number of customers on payment plans has almost doubled to about 33,000 since Duggan announced his 10-point plan on dealing with them in August.
Wiley said the meeting was unproductive. "Unfortunately, it became clear shortly into the meeting that the UN representatives had reached their conclusions and prepared their recommendations before the meeting had even begun," she said in a statement, that also accused the UN of singling out Detroit for criticism of a "standard practice among utilities."