hris and Jessie Kessler know just how precious apartments have become in the Mill Creek and Knightville neighborhoods, just across the Fore River from downtown Portland.

After living in a Cottage Street rental for four years, the Kesslers received notice in July that they were being evicted. Their landlord gave no reason, they say, and she didn’t have to. They had no lease, so they were tenants at will. The couple and their two children had to be out by Aug. 5.

The Kesslers really wanted to stay in Mill Creek or Knightville, and their oldest daughter would be starting kindergarten at nearby Brown Elementary School in September.

“We’ve been in the neighborhood for seven years and we’ve made good connections in the community, so the thought of leaving was really disturbing,” said Chris Kessler, an energy auditor and solar company manager.

Scouring ads on Craigslist and other websites, they found two-bedroom rents were averaging $1,400 a month, nearly $600 more than they were paying on Cottage Road. Ads were posted and taken down within an hour or two. Landlords said they were getting dozens of calls for each apartment. Some were holding mass showings where the Kesslers saw other families in the same predicament.


“We also looked in Scarborough and people were telling us to look in Westbrook, but we were committed to staying in this neighborhood,” Jessie Kessler said.

With time running out, the Kesslers sought help from friends and neighbors. They talked to a local business owner who knew that a former employee was leaving an apartment on C Street. When Jessie Kessler called the landlord, he said that apartment had already been leased, but he had another two-bedroom on A Street that would be available Sept. 1. The rent is $1,100 per month, including heat, so it’s similar to Cottage Street, which was $825 a month excluding utilities.

“We were so lucky to get that apartment, and we did it by word of mouth,” Jessie Kessler said.

The Kesslers plan to live in their A Street apartment for a year or two and hope to save enough money to buy a house.

“Because we certainly don’t want to go through this again,” Chris Kessler said.

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