The City of Detroit is attempting to make its Basement Backup Protection Program more accessible by lowering the cost burden for residents to access plumbing repairs.
Detroit Water and Sewerage Department officials said the program changes, which went into effect in early July, also includes a commitment for same-day fixes after a house is assessed.
The program rolled out in May to offer flood prevention resources to homeowners in 11 city neighborhoods affected by recurrent flooding, by providing up to $6,000 in repairs per home.
Previously, homeowners were required to pay a 10% deposit on the total cost of the needed plumbing repairs before the work could begin, meaning some could be on the hook for as much as $600. Now, homeowners in the program have to pay a flat fee of $100, according to DWSD.
“With these significant adjustments, we believe the completion of the homes will dramatically accelerate this month,” Bryan Peckinpaugh, a spokesman for DWSD, told BridgeDetroit.
Under the program, once homeowners are approved, a contractor conducts a home inspection to identify flood prevention fixes needed, including the installation of backwater valves or sump pumps.
“The intention of the pilot phase is that we will learn what works, what does not work and what needs to be improved,” Peckinpaugh added. “As a result, we have determined that the 10% (resident) and 20% (landlord) deposit to participate in the program is a burden for most homeowners. It has been the primary delay in getting the backwater valves installed.”
To date, the city has completed 27 homes out of the 303 they approved for the first phase of the project, which covered two neighborhoods: Aviation Sub and Victoria Park.
Besides the cost barriers, Peckinpaugh said water department officials have learned that multiple visits by plumbers have also delayed the repair process due to scheduling issues between homeowners and plumbers.
“Instead of having the licensed plumber inspect the private sewer service line with a camera and provide the footage to the homeowner and DWSD, then schedule another visit for the installation, we will combine the work,” he added.
The city plans to notify residents of the program changes by the end of the week by sending letters to Phase 1 applicants, and updating the website. Homeowners who have already paid the 10% deposit will be reimbursed.
The basement backup program is funded with federal COVID-19 relief aid and was created in response to the severe floods last summer that left 32,000 Detroit basements full of water and sewage.
Homeowners can apply if they live in any of the neighborhoods selected by the city known for recurrent flooding. Those include: Aviation Sub, Barton-McFarland, Chadsey Condon, Garden View, Warrendale, Cornerstone Village, East English Village, Jefferson Chalmers, Morningside, Moross-Morang, and Victoria Park.
The water department has said more than 2,200 residents had applied overall. The timeline for the second phase of the program is still undetermined. DWSD officials have said it will get underway once Phase 1 of the program is complete.