Portland announced Friday that it is devoting more money to a program designed to prevent city residents from becoming homeless.

City Manager Jon Jennings added $25,000 to the city’s Tenant Based Rental Assistance program, giving it a $155,000 budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30, a statement from the city said.

The allocation made Monday leaves the program, which has provided assistance to 104 households so far this fiscal year, with a balance of roughly $50,000.

The program uses funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Program to pay security deposits, short-term rental assistance and utilities for people facing eviction or staying at shelters. Each client is assigned a case manager to provide follow-up services that connect them to other mainstream resources to ensure successful outcomes, the statement said.

A city spokesman said the additional money came from unused funds in a different HOME program designed to help low-income property owners rehabilitate their buildings.

“The council, through the Housing Committee, is taking a thoughtful approach to fully understand the city’s housing needs and improve the issues our citizens are facing,” Jennings said in a written statement. “I’m pleased that we were able to find additional funds to respond to this unanticipated need.”


A Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald special report “Welcome to Portland: No Vacancy,” found that market rents in the city had increased 40 percent in the past five years and that low-income renters are facing evictions and rent increases as the hot market fuels the construction of high-end apartments and condos. That has tossed many low-income individuals and their families into a housing market that is more costly than they can afford.

The announcement was made less than 24 hours after a new coalition of tenants’ advocates and social service providers held an emergency meeting to address how the city’s housing market is squeezing out low-income renters. About 100 people turned out for the meeting Thursday that was organized by the Portland Coalition for Housing Justice, which includes Preble Street, Homeless Voices for Justice, Opportunity Alliance, the Portland Tenants Union, Shalom House and Catholic Charities.

The coalition plans to present a list of demands to the City Council’s Housing Committee on April 27. A call to increase funding for the Tenant Based Rental Assistance program is among the demands.

The group also is seeking a moratorium on evicting a tenant without cause, limits on rent increases, a ban on discrimination against people who receive housing subsidies and preserving housing for low-income tenants.

Last year, the city allocated $135,314 to the Tenant Based Rental Assistance program, which helped 136 households. In fiscal 2014, it allocated $135,622, when the program helped 126 households, the city said.

“I’m very pleased that the mayor and manager were able to find additional resources to provide an interim solution for tenants that need assistance,” said City Councilor Jill Duson, chair of Housing Committee, which is charged with finding a way to address housing needs in the city. “At the same time, we continue to work diligently to address the city’s urgent housing issues through the Housing Committee.”


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