Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Portland voting on these referendums this year?
There are several questions on the local ballot this year. They were written by a small group without public input, public notice, or public hearings. The proponents of the ordinances successfully fought to keep the language of the new proposals off the ballot. They didn’t wanted voters to see the pages and pages of complex changes to city regulations.
If the initiatives pass, they cannot be fixed by the city council for five years.
Didn’t Portland just vote on rent control?
Yes. In 2017, voters rejected a rent control proposal 64% - 36%.
What is in this rent control ordinance?
As written, the ordinance would allow landlords to adjust rents based on the rate of inflation. If a landlord makes improvements to an apartment, even health or safety improvements, they would need to go before a seven-person, volunteer board to get approval for increases to cover the cost of the improvements. This all-volunteer board would also hear appeals from tenants. If just 10% of tenants appeal rent increases and 10% of units are improved in a year, the all-volunteer board would hear over 200 appeals a month. At a time when the city of Portland is eliminating 65 positions, this new law would require the city to hire additional staff to support the board.
I don’t rent, will the rent control law have any impact on me?
Yes. Because rent control reduces the value of multi-unit buildings, the property tax burden will be shifted to single family homes and other businesses, increasing the property tax burden for homeowners. Additionally, the loss of value will shift the tax burden significantly to homes off the peninsula. For every $10,000 per unit decrease in value across the city, $3,000,000 in property taxes will be shifted to owners of single-family homes.
Will rent control make rents go down?
There is nothing in the proposal that will make rents go down. In fact, the law functionally guarantees rent increases. The ordinance would limit rent increases for existing tenants to the rate of inflation but allow 5% increases for new tenants. This provides a significant incentive for landlords to find new tenants every year.
The 2017 rent control proposal made it harder to remove bad acting tenants, did they fix that?
As written, it would take three months to remove bad acting tenants. There is no exemption for known drug dealers or domestic abusers.
I’ve heard affordable housing advocates oppose the Green New Deal. Why?
The problems with the Green New Deal are so significant that the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition is opposing a local referendum for the first time ever. Nonprofit organizations that build affordable housing must meet strict per-unit and per-square foot costs. Portland’s Green New Deal would increase the cost of building affordable housing so significantly that nonprofits would no longer qualify for Maine State Housing Authority’s funding program. There are hundreds of affordable housing units in the pipeline that will not be built if Question C passes.
Will this have any impact on renovating the four elementary schools?
In 2017, Portland voters supported a $64 million bond to renovate four elementary schools. If the Green New Deal passes, those projects will cost significantly more and the city will either need more money to fund them or to either scale back the projects or the number of schools being renovated.
Is the Portland Green New Deal the same as the national Green New Deal?
No. Portland’s Green New Deal re-writes the city’s building code, zoning laws, and labor laws. Unlike national proposals, it is not designed to create jobs or set effective green building standards. It includes very specific requirements for contractors that 95% of Maine homebuilders would not meet, therefore disqualifying them from doing work in Portland and shifting jobs to out-of-state companies.