Growth is good. Let me be more specific: Growth is good for Portland.

Even more specific? If you care about good jobs, taxes, public safety, schools, affordable housing, social services, parks, public transit, small business, art, music, theater, restaurants, vibrant street life and probably a host of other things, growth is good for you.

There are 492 municipalities in Maine, and you can park for free wherever you want in about 489 of them. If you want green space, Maine has a lot of it. But Portland is unique.

It’s not a shopping mall or a nature preserve. It’s a city, which makes it a good place to put people and businesses. Although there are quite a few of both now, we could use more.

For the people who live here, growth is a mixed blessing, but we sometimes forget it’s still a blessing.

And the good news is, Portland is growing. There are new hotels and new affordable-housing projects, both under construction and completed. And there are big projects underway, such as the Thompson’s Point multi-use development. For the first time in decades, there is new multi-unit, market-rate housing under construction and in the pipeline.

But Portland’s not always growing fast enough or in the right way. Construction of new housing can’t keep up with demand, putting pressure on the price of existing housing stock. We have a rental vacancy rate that approaches zero.

We have 7,000 more households than we had in 1950, but 11,000 fewer people. We are producing households faster than we can produce housing. That is creating some of the weird distortions we are seeing, such as million-dollar condos in what used to be working-class Munjoy Hill, and 285 people lined up outside the Oxford Street homeless shelter on a winter night.

So when you hear about a new development, the question shouldn’t be: “What kind of person is going to live there?” Rich or poor, it really doesn’t matter. The question should be: “How many units is it going to have?”

New housing on the market would ease the pressure on existing housing, making it more affordable. That’s true whether it’s a subsidized development for low-income residents or luxury units for the wealthy elite. We need more of all kinds of houses here.

Some people sneer and claim that this is “trickle-down economics,” but they are wrong.

It’s not trickle-down, it’s just economics – Adam Smith-style, law of supply and demand.

For the city to grow responsibly, its zoning policies have to change.

The city code was not brought down the mountain on stone tablets. It was imposed on Portland after everybody’s favorite parts were already built. The West End, Old Port and Munjoy Hill could not be constructed under the current ordinance.

There are more nonconforming properties in those districts than conforming ones. Demands for suburban-style setbacks, frontage and parking are making it prohibitively expensive to build in the neighborhoods in which the demand is heaviest.

But a plan to “legalize” the kind of development that many people seem to like – small houses, small lots, close to stores and offices – is met with predictable opposition from neighbors. One of them complained to me that the proposed zoning would allow “tube housing,” as can be found in Hanoi, Vietnam – as if you could do anything to our zoning ordinance that could turn Portland into Hanoi.

Stubborn resistance to change is a strand of Maine’s DNA, and we should all respect it. It’s why we still have downtowns and working waterfronts when other places leveled theirs in the name of progress. But even a strength can be a weakness if you take it too far.

You could stop every development and every ordinance revision, and Portland wouldn’t be frozen. If it can’t grow up, it will grow out. If there is no middle-class housing, there will be no middle class. If it turns into a city only for those who can afford water views and those who can’t afford to leave, it will change.

It’s hard to get people to embrace change. Those who grew up here wish Portland could be like it was when they were kids. People who moved here as adults came because they like the city the way it was. Both groups have to get over it.

Not changing is not one of your choices.

Every zone change won’t be good for every property owner. Not everyone will like the way every new building looks.

But everyone would benefit from living in a city where businesses have room to expand and workers at all income levels can find a place to live.

We can get there, but only if we grow. Remember, growth is good.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: gregkesich

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