FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2016
Following months of work, Chairs offer proposals to assist low-to-moderate income tenants
PORTLAND, Maine -- The Chairs of the Portland City Council’s Housing Committee, Councilor Jill Duson (Chair) and Councilor David Brenerman (Vice-Chair), will present a set of proposals to address housing insecurity issues to the full Committee at its Wednesday night meeting (9/28 5:30 PM in Council Chambers). It is expected that the Committee will vote on recommendations to forward to the full City Council for possible adoption.
“Our goal is to present an approach to addressing the issues that we’re experiencing here in Portland, keeping in mind the long term effect these decisions will have on the housing market,” said Committee Chair Jill Duson.
Committee Vice-Chair David Brenerman added, “we want to help the bargaining position of tenants in a very tight housing market while keeping in mind that the market is affected by economic cycles. We don’t want to over correct and tip the balance so drastically that it affects the quality and availability of housing for low-to-moderate renters in our community."
The Committee began focusing on policy associated with housing insecurity after a series of public hearings and issues forums, reviewing best practices research, and receiving input from city staff and corporation counsel. The policy themes included rent control/rent increase limitations, increases to notification minimums for rent increases and non-renewal of leases, voucher discrimination, tenant/landlord mediation/ombudsman, tenant relocation payments, and restrictions on unit turn over in large buildings.
To that end, the Committee Chair and Vice Chair have assembled a proposed package containing policy items aimed at mitigating concerns related to housing insecurity. The package includes:
The Chairs noted that of all the protections the City can provide tenants, education of rights and responsibilities is an important component, referring to two of the proposed items above (2 and 3).
The Chair and Vice Chair also propose that the Committee take time to further study the implications and feasibility of instituting a Tenant Relocation Assistance Fund for households earning below 50% of Area Median Income (AMI) that are asked to relocate due to substantial rehabilitation or renovations to their unit. Outstanding questions that would need to be considered would include possible funding amounts/sources, definitions that trigger “substantial renovation”, income thresholds, enforcement, and payment amounts.
The Chairs added that because Portland’s housing stock is old, it’s important to encourage landlords to upgrade units so that low and moderate income people are not forced to live in substandard housing in order to find an affordable rent.
“We’d like to recognize and thank the many community organizations and members of the public who spent time working with us throughout this process. It is our hope that the public, especially those who have been following the process, will have a chance to review the proposed package and come to the meeting on Wednesday night to weigh in one more time,” said Committee Chair Duson.
Vice-Chair Brenerman added, “In developing our package, we considered all of the proposals that came before us, many of which had conflicting views from the public. Some of them were not included after we learned that they were already covered by or would conflict with existing state law, would have questionable legal basis, or because the City attorney advised that the Council could not implement them with its Home Rule authority."
"This is just one piece of a complex puzzle, and the first package we are putting forward. We have a number of ideas to research in terms of increasing the amount of housing and potential changes to the housing fund,” said Councilor Duson. We have not lost sight of these issues, and we anticipate teeing them up within the next three to four months.”