PORTLAND, Maine, May 26, 2017 -- A group of tenants, landlords, business owners, and concerned citizens are aiming to place a referendum on Portland's ballot this November to help alleviate the city's housing affordability crisis. The proposed rent stabilization ordinance would cap the amount that certain landlords can increase rent each year and add other renter protections.
"The most direct benefits of this ordinance would go to the renters who are most at risk of being pushed out of the city as it becomes increasingly unaffordable," says Bre Chamberlain, a mother of two who was displaced from Portland due to rising rents. "This ordinance would allow children to stay in their schools and elderly people to age in place while providing low- and middle-income folks the ability to put more of their money toward savings, health care, education, and other crucial expenses." Chamberlain is a member of Fair Rent Portland.
Soaring Rents, Displaced Communities
Portland ranks #2 in the nation for rental increase rates, and in the past 5 years, rents have increased more than 40%. Portland is rapidly becoming unaffordable for anyone not making at least $75,000 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.
Fair Rent Portland chose to pursue a rent stabilization strategy that has proven popular and effective in other similar cities.
"Rather than fixing or freezing rents, the proposed ordinance would cap rent increases for certain rental units at the rate of inflation," says Genevieve Cox, a renter in Portland's East End and member of Fair Rent Portland.
The referendum is modeled on the ordinance of West Hollywood, California, which has been in place for 32 years and is considered one of the most successful efforts to stop rapid gentrification. In the first fifteen years of their ordinance, rents declined 22% (after accounting for inflation).
Economic Ripple Effects
The group anticipates that the city as a whole will also see many positive ripple effects from stabilizing housing. “This is an important step to take towards helping our city grow sustainably,” says Ana Lagunez, a Portland resident and member of Fair Rent Portland. “This ordinance will keep our community and housing market stable while the city engages with longer term solutions -- zoning codes, inclusionary zoning, transportation infrastructure -- that will support more middle-class and workforce housing.”
Since renters are paying at least $50 million dollars in rent they weren’t paying five years ago, rent stabilization has the potential to keep more money in the pockets of local folks who will use it to boost local businesses. It could also stabilize the workforce housing needed for businesses to retain dedicated long-term employees and grow.
“Rapid gentrification is hollowing out our city. What we’re proposing is a balanced way forward that protects the key to a vital city: its renters,” says Chamberlain.
Read more about Fair Rent Portland's referendum at FairRentPortland.org.
Members of Fair Rent Portland are available for interviews. Reach us at email@example.com, and learn more about our work on Facebook and Twitter.