SCARBOROUGH — As I search for a new apartment in the Portland area, I notice something: Rent in our area has risen by a few hundred dollars per unit since I last searched for an apartment five years ago. However, I see my fellow 20- and 30-somethings – many with bachelor’s and master’s degrees – living on wages that would never allow them to live in a clean, respectable apartment in a nice part of Greater Portland. I have to wonder, why is that?

As a longtime Maine resident, I know that we live in a beautiful area. Our architecture, landscape, history and fellow Mainers have so much character that it is not difficult for me to understand why more and more people are moving to Vacationland.

However, how many people are coming up here to buy, renovate or build housing units that 99 percent of the people I know could never afford?

At first, the urban renewal and revival of the downtrodden areas of Portland sound like a wonderful idea, until you browse Craigslist for an hour or two and discover that affordable living in the area is becoming scarce. As a full-time worker making a decent wage, I am frustrated that I cannot live in any of my preferred areas because the rents are simply too high.

Who is filling all of these luxury and “executive” units? Is it too much to ask that I could afford a well-maintained one-bedroom apartment on the peninsula of Portland without sacrificing groceries or gasoline?

Simply put: Rents in southern Maine are being hiked well past the point of affordability, and we need to somehow pull back on the reins of the random – and sometimes ridiculous – price points of rental properties in our area.

The luxury market in Portland seems to have exploded. Unless you opt to live in a less desirable or notably unsafe area, you are guaranteed to pay at least $1,700 a month with nothing included, and that’s if you’re lucky. Mostly, two-bedroom units in nice neighborhoods are going for between $2,600 a month and $5,500 a month, and I can list on one hand the people I know personally who could afford these units (if they stretched their working hours and budgets to the maximum).

There is something about this situation that seems very unfair to my generation in particular, especially when we have had arguably one of the hardest times in the job market as young professionals in the last 50 years.

In addition to the rising luxury market, it seems that more and more landlords are pulling their apartment values out of thin air. Units with appliances, carpeting and fixtures that are older than I am are going for only slightly less per month than units that were renovated within the last two years. There is no regulation on rental prices in the Portland area whatsoever. All pricing decisions are left to the market and the discretion of the landlord, allowing rental costs – and the people setting them – to run wild.

I am grateful that Portland has become an ever-blossoming example of an idyllic, up-and-coming New England city, but how can I enjoy it if I can’t even afford to live there? From Falmouth to Scarborough, the rents are so high that I can no longer afford to live in the areas I love most in the state of which I am so proud to be a resident.

I have many friends in the same situation who have been forced to move back in with family after graduating from college and being unable to find a position with a wage they can afford to live on independently.

Why are we doing this to the young and bright residents who chose to stay here at home instead of leaving for better opportunities elsewhere? Who are we really trying to attract to our area with these obnoxious prices and “luxury” units? Has our area’s character left its residents to live only in the exposed brick and beams of our centuries-old homes? Your guess, fellow Portland Press Herald readers, is as good as mine.

— Special to the Press Herald