Stabilizing rent in Portland: will it help tenants, or make matters worse?

NOW: Group calls for rent stabilization in Portland

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- An assessment a few years ago showed the average rent in Portland had increased by 40% in the span of five years. Once again, a proposal has been introduced to curb the rising prices.

One year ago, Mayor Ethan Strimling proposed a change to limit rents; it was turned down.

A group of volunteers calling themselves Fair Rent Portland is hoping to at least slow those increases down.

The group dropped off a collection of 2,501 signatures for an ordinance that would set limits on how much and how often landlords could increase rents. 
 
"A lot of what we're doing is really common sense solutions that 170 other cities have taken up," says Jack O'Brien with Fair Rent Portland. "So we're talking about read stabilization for large commercial landlords; a tenant board so people can mediate disputes; publishing regular statistics so we as individuals and the city can make informed decisions about what's going on with housing."
 
What's going on with housing, according to a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram analysis - is that rents in Portland increased 40 percent from 2010 to 2015. 
 
"The folks who built our nationally prominent food industry, they can't afford to work as line cooks and live in Portland," says O'Brien. "Ultimately that's going to create a job desert so those jobs will go elsewhere. Our small businesses; Portland has the highest rate of small businesses in the country. For those small businesses you need employees that are going to stick around and help you thrive."
 
According to the city's spokesperson, the signatures were turned in too late to get the referendum on the November ballot.
 

 
The President of the Southern Maine Landlord Association says this proposal could actually prevent landlords from renovating or updating their apartments, since they won't make enough of an increase. 
 
Brit Vitalius says imposing a cap could actually backfire and make housing worse.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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