One of the highlights of today’s Rental Housing Advisory Committee meeting was the news that City Councilor Jill Duson, dubbed the “Anti-Housing Housing Committee” chair by critics of her do nothing tenure, might step down from this post at the end of the year.
For renters, this is good news. Duson has failed to advocate for us during her tenure in this position. Furthermore, the creation of this Committee is many years over due – particularly given the number of renters once in this City. The issues surrounding renters are well known – except to Duson apparently – who has preferred to stick her head in the sand and ignore gentrification, its related problems and ways to alleviate the stresses experienced by renters.
Aaron Berger, a tenant representative to the Committee, expressed concern that some New Mainers are subjected to a practice that adds uncontrolled costs to their housing expenses. Some landlords require an application fee, with each application, although they may have no intent of renting to that person for reasons they don’t want to make public. “Is there any recourse for this?”, asked Berger. “People are paying fees and don’t know if they are pocketing it and never conducting the search on their credit and criminal background. Are landlords making extra bucks from collecting fees?” Berger asked the Committee.
A lengthy discussion ensued. Regan Sweeney, co-chair of the Committee and a landlord suggested that if an applicant doesn’t get the apartment, that person should have the fee check returned. Berger said he liked the idea, but it could get complicated because of time limit issues. etc.
It was decided that more research needs to be done to come up with answers before the discussion can proceed.
Berger emphasized that the Committee will not be used to mediate conflicts between landlords and tenants.
The Committee has decided to meet monthly rather than quarterly. The next meeting of this Committee will be on Monday, November 25, City Hall Room 24. That’s in the basement and presumably the time is 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm. The public is welcome to attend.
For more background information on renter issues, please see post herein dated October 20, 2019.
NOTE: This blogger is a life-long renter who once served on a similar board in another city. Hopefully this Committee will eventually address issues concerning gentrification and changes that can protect renters from the abuses therein.