It is clear that Portland is in the midst of a housing crisis. Over the past year, media reports, emergency meetings and public forums focused on mass evictions, rent increases and the development of luxury condominiums have become commonplace.

Over 100 no-cause evictions have occurred in just the past six months. People who thought they had left homelessness behind have been thrown out once again to desperately seek housing and return to the shelters. Adults with physical and intellectual disabilities who achieved independence feel their autonomy ripped away from them along with their apartments. One such tenant declared during a public forum in April, “I’ve had everything taken away from me.”

Voucher holders confront endless waiting lists and de facto discrimination from landlords that lead them to spend nights couch-surfing, camping out or sleeping on a floor mat at the city shelter. For all the talk of how crucial immigrant workers are rejuvenating Maine’s economy, newly arrived asylum seekers struggle to find housing options they can afford with paychecks from their first jobs in the country. Landlords enact rent increases that force longtime tenants out of a city they love and where they work.

In response to this emergency situation, a group of tenants, social service providers and housing advocates formed the Portland Coalition for Housing Justice. The coalition’s members include the New Mainers Tenants’ Association, the Portland Tenants’ Union, the South Portland Tenants’ Association, Portland-Outright, Preble Street, The Opportunity Alliance, Hope Acts, Shalom House and Homeless Voices for Justice.

Our aim is to propose and organize for immediate and long-term solutions to our city’s crisis of homelessness and economic exploitation that is forcing people out of Portland or onto its streets.

This crisis overwhelmingly affects the lives of people formerly or currently homeless, formerly incarcerated, new immigrants and people of color, LGBTQ+ young people, those with disabilities and the elderly, as well as low-income residents of all stripes. Homelessness and lack of affordable housing are crises of public health and safety, as well as crises of justice. If Portland wants to be an economically and racially diverse city, affordable housing is an absolute necessity, and the issue must be addressed democratically and with urgency by elected officials.


Action is necessary and must be taken immediately. When city officials engage with community members most directly affected by our housing crisis, policy solutions are more effective, just and lasting. The Portland Coalition for Housing Justice is calling on city councilors to support an emergency ordinance that places a six-month ban on all no-cause evictions, coupled with a temporary cap on rent increases.

We know this is not a cure-all. While we’re in a crisis, we also know that policies across several decades have shaped our current moment, and it will take a multi-pronged strategy to make substantive change. However, the coalition’s proposal is a principled measure that allows for the city’s Housing Committee to work collaboratively with tenants and advocates to determine long-term, sustainable solutions. Most importantly, immediate action keeps people in their homes.

The coalition is also advocating for mid- and long-term solutions that express a commitment to making Portland a livable city for everyone, especially lower-income residents. These proposals to sustainably meet the needs for affordable housing across our city include:

 Fully funding the Tenant Based Rental Assistance program year-round, every year.

 Creating real ordinances and enforcement measures to end discrimination against voucher holders.

 Tightening the housing replacement ordinance so that developers must help pay into a fund that replaces affordable housing units 1 for 1 as they are removed from the market.

 Taxing Airbnb rentals to fund these proposals.

If 100 units went up in flames tomorrow, we are certain that city officials would treat the displacement of those residents as an emergency warranting immediate action. We cannot deny that the level of displacement occurring in Portland is an emergency of equally life-threatening proportion.

Life can’t be good here for people without stable, affordable and safe housing. The Portland Coalition for Housing Justice invites residents committed to making Portland livable for all people to join us for a rally on the steps of City Hall on June 6 at 4:30 p.m.

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