January 20, 2018
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Portlanders vote down rent control measure

By Jake Bleiberg, BDN Staff
Updated:
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A for rent sign hangs outside a Portland building on Tuesday evening while voters are decide the fate of a proposed rent control ordinance.

PORTLAND, Maine — Voters here on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have made Portland the first community in Maine to introduce rent controls.

The citizens’ initiative, Question 1, was resoundingly defeated Tuesday night with nearly 64 percent of the voters turning out against the measure, according to the city’s final, unofficial results.

The measure would have capped rent increases for large landlords, established a citizens’ board with broad authority over rental matters and limited the reasons for which a landlord can evict a tenant.

Question 1 was placed on the ballot after years of sharp rent increases that have made it increasingly challenging for lower-income Portlanders to live in the city. It was supported by a grassroots campaign looking to curb gentrification in Maine’s largest city and fiercely opposed by landlords, developers and some affordable housing groups.

Brit Vitalius of Portland's "No on 1" campaign regarding proposed rent control measures, awaits results at Rising Tide Brewery.

Posted by BDN Portland on Tuesday, November 7, 2017

“I think we came together as a community to say we want to deal with our housing challenges and that rent control is not the solution,” said Brit Vitalius, the president of Southern Maine Landlord Association, which led opposition to the measure. “I think the message came through that is this not Berkeley California. It’s Portland, Maine.”

Fair Rent Portland, which supported the measure, was massively outspent by Say No to Rent Control. The opposition group raised almost $270,000 to oppose the ordinance and drew in large donations from landlord and development groups around the country.

The opposing camps were sharply split in their assessments of the ordinance and how it would have shaped the city’s housing market. Among other things, the complex measure would have limited the amount landlords with six or more units could raise rent annually, pegging increases to inflation and property taxes, and establishing a seven-member volunteer board responsible for overseeing the ordinance.

The rent limits would have exempted landlords who own five or fewer units and those who own buildings constructed after Jan. 1, 2017. The ordinance also would not have included public-housing units, dormitories and owner-occupied buildings with two or three rental units from the rent controls.

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