Much has been made of the sharp rise in evictions (or, more accurately, in terminations of at-will leases). Conventional wisdom points to owners cashing out in a booming real estate market.

But I know of at least two cases where the evictions corresponded with the property’s being brought to market. Why did they choose to let go of the balloon at the same time? While there certainly is a correlation with rising values, the sharp spike in evictions indicates other factors.

In recent years, the city’s affordable housing policy had enabled substandard housing. This worked fairly well: Landlords avoided costly repairs and safety upgrades, while tenants enjoyed a below-market rent.

But in the wake of the tragic Noyes Street fire, the city of Portland has increased fire safety inspections. Faced with the costs of years of deferred maintenance, safety upgrades, fees, fines and – at worst – arrest, it seems that many owners have decided now is the right time to sell.

In bringing apartments up to code (and to market), it seems that safety is the new luxury.

Zachary Barowitz

Portland