This morning volunteers for the Fair Rent Portland proposed ordinance filed petitions with the City Clerk’s office that, when approved, will put the ordinance on the November 2017 ballet. Fifteen hundred (1,500) names were required, but the group collected 2,501 names in one-third of the time given them by Maine law, a positive sign to the volunteers. It is expected that the City’s Clerk office will verify the signatures by Thursday of this week.
Portland ranks number 2 in the nation for rental increase rates and in the past five years, rents have increased more than 40%. Portland is rapidly becoming fordable for anyone not making at least $75,000.00 a year. It’s becoming a city where artists, teachers, fishermen and service industry workers struggle to find a place to live within their means according to a press release issued by the non-profit.
Provisions in this proposed ordinance designed to increase tenant protections include: capping rent increases at the rate of inflation (about 2%) once a year until the market cools, exempt owner occupied duplexes and triplexes; set just cause protections for the large majority of renters; ensure automatic lease renewal for all tenants with leases; allowing landlords to set prices of vacant rentals without restrictions; creating tenant/landlord board to hear concerns and; require the city to collect and publish statistics about rent in each neighborhood.
“The only concern I have is the amount of money that is going to be spent by the opposition,” said Pellenz. “Big property owners who have already made a pile of money. The Southern Maine Landlord Association has already mischaracterized aspects of the referendum on their face book page. It’s going to be a struggle because the largest landlords will try to confuse the issue.”
Residents of Back Bay Tower, 401 Cumberland Avenue, were pleased to hear of this referendum proposed by Fair Rent Portland, although it’s too late for many who’ve been forced to relocate out of state in recent years because of the on-going excessive rent increases in this building. Numerous renters refused to talk on the record with mhn.com for fear of retribution by the landlord, but they did state that the rent increases at the high-rise were forcing some of them out – but they didn’t know where to turn.
One retired senior women who moved into the building five years ago, said she received a 18% rent increase two years ago. She has not calculated this year’s rent increase yet. “There’s not much point in looking elsewhere in Portland, because it’s the same everywhere in the city.” She lives on a fixed income – her retirement as a school teacher. A fifteen year resident of Back Bay Tower said that her recent increase just went up $650.00 per month. Rent increases in the building have gone up between 40% – 60% this past year, she said. She works in Portland.
Please see post herein dated May 14, 2016 in which mhn.com wrote about the same apartment building and the excessive rent increases issued at the time. According to the wife of the security guard at the time: “There will always be others to take their places…..we always have a waiting list to get in here.” Those were her words to mhn.com about the renters forced out due to abusive rent increases.
The City of Portland’s Housing Committee, chaired by councilors Jill Duson and co-chaired by David Brennerman has refused to advance renter protections that have come before the Committee. Duson is being challenged in her re-election bid by Joey Brunelle of Munjoy HIll. Another challenger for the conservative’s seat is Bree LaCasse who did not respond to an inquiry last week on her position on the Fair Rent Portland proposal. She works for a local developer, so her failure to respond does not come as a surprise.
Mayor Ethan Strimling recently wrote in an email: “Confronting housing insecurity has been one of my top goals. I appreciate that these folks are also looking for answers to the crises and that they have offered a possible solution for the city to consider. I look forward to reviewing the ordinance and making an announcement this fall on whether I will encourage Portland residents to vote in its favor.”
For more information on the proposed ordinance, please contact Jack O’Brien at 207 – 844-4703 or go on facebook.