Several city councilors say Portland should take action to ensure that the city’s housing stock, among the oldest in New England, is in compliance with fire safety codes.

However, they offered few details on how to do that and differed on whether the city should hire more fire inspectors.

The issue has taken on added urgency since Maine’s deadliest fire in 40 years. The Nov. 1 blaze that killed six young people at 20 Noyes St. has uncovered a pattern of fire code violations in the city’s rental units, little proof of follow-up inspections to ensure the infractions are addressed and the city’s inability to keep up with inspections of its aging housing stock.

A Maine Sunday Telegram review found that a lack of staffing and a focus on oversight of new development prevent the city from completing annual code compliance inspections of all its existing rental units and businesses.

An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the Nov. 1 fire, as well as whether a third floor unit at 20 Noyes St. was legally built and if the building had functioning smoke alarms.

The city had responded to 16 complaints about the overall condition of the Noyes Street duplex since 2003, but records released Friday by the city do not indicate whether it issued a ruling on the legality of the unit. Landlord Gregory Nisbet did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Councilor John Coyne, who serves on the public safety committee, said the city should keep all options on the table to bolster fire inspections – including a staffing increase in the fire department.

“Right now, I don’t think they have the proper staffing to do what’s in front of them,” said Coyne, whose term expires at the end of the year.

The city also should work with landlords who are trying to upgrade their buildings so they don’t go broke while trying to comply with codes, even if it means beginning a loan program, he said.

Councilor David Marshall also believes more should be done to ensure the safety of rental housing. He said he is open to more staffing, since more than half of Portland residents are renters.

Marshall noted the similarities to the city’s restaurant inspection program, which was once understaffed and overlooked. The city has since made changes to its restaurant program by increasing staffing and making inspection reports available online.

Marshall said regular inspections of apartment buildings also would allow firefighters to become familiar with the layouts and potential hazards, such as discarded furniture in hallways, basements and attics, as well as combustible materials being stored improperly. That would allow firefighters to protect tenants and themselves, he said.

“It doesn’t take much time for conditions to change in a restaurant setting, just like it doesn’t take much time for conditions to change in an apartment setting,” he said.

On Friday, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan announced the formation of a task force that would review the city’s fire and code inspection policies in the wake of the fire.

The city already has paid $39,000 for an independent review of the fire department. That study, issued in March 2013, revealed a lack of staffing in the fire inspection program and an inability to inspect roughly 4,900 apartments and businesses annually in accordance with city policy.

The new task force will include representatives of the fire, police, inspections, social services and legal departments, as well as a local landlord association, according to the city.

Some community leaders were surprised that the task force will not include a representative of a neighborhood association.

“That was quite an omission the mayor made,” said Carol Schiller, president of the University Neighborhood Organization, which had filed complaints about the condition of the 20 Noyes St. duplex.

“The neighborhood leaders definitely need to be at the table. They see the problems and hear about the problems,” she said.

Representatives of the Western Promenade and Munjoy Hill neighborhood associations agreed. But Parkside Neighborhood Association President Emma Holder wasn’t concerned about not having a neighborhood association appointee, as long as the group had at least one tenant.

Councilor Jon Hinck said he needed more information before offering specifics about what the city should do to increase housing oversight.

“The Noyes Street fire has certainly reminded us that we need to be on that issue,” Hinck said. “I will be seeking more information and more answers.”

He stopped short of endorsing an increase in overall staffing levels within the fire department to bolster inspections. Portland seems to pay more for fire services than comparable communities, even accounting for special hazards such as the port, islands and airport, Hinck said.

“I’d like us to have a fire-safe city on a tight fire department budget,” he said.

Councilor Ed Suslovic, who chairs the public safety committee and has been critical of the fire department’s staffing levels, also wants to work within the current budget to boost inspections.

Councilor Cheryl Leeman is awaiting the results of the fire investigation before determining next steps, but she believes the city should be doing more to ensure Portland renters are safe.

Leeman, who is vice chair of the public safety committee, suggested there is a fundamental flaw in the city’s budgeting process and priorities that may be leaving true needs unaddressed.

“I would also suggest a return to setting a budget based on identified community needs rather than political and ideological agendas, with priority directed to the services our citizens have come to expect,” said Leeman, whose term expires at the end of the year.

Councilors Nicholas Mavodones Jr. and Kevin Donoghue did not respond to messages for comment. Councilor Jill Duson said in an email she was unable to respond because of a personal matter.