Leaders of the Portland City Council’s special housing committee want to give the city’s renters an added measure of protection from an unforgiving housing market that has fueled fast-rising rents and mass evictions.

The package of proposals includes more advance notice of rent increases and a new task force made up of landlords and tenants to advise the City Council.

Those proposals come after Mayor Ethan Strimling proposed a package of more aggressive tenant protections, which included default one-year leases, controls on rent increases and restrictions on how many units a landlord could clear of residents for a renovation project.

Councilors Jill Duson and David Brenerman plan to present their proposals Wednesday at a meeting of the five-member committee. Duson is the chairwoman and Brenerman is the vice-chairman. Their recommendations include:

• Increasing the required notification for rent increases from 45 to 60 days.

• Creating a tenant/landlord task force comprised of six members and co-chaired by one landlord and one tenant representative. It would serve as an advisory panel to the council and as a clearinghouse to the public on landlord/tenant and housing issues.


• Requiring landlords and tenants to sign a document explaining tenancy-at-will versus formal leases.

• Requiring landlords to give tenants a brochure outlining tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities.

• Incorporating into city ordinances a Maine Human Rights Act prohibition against income discrimination.

The housing committee is expected to vote on the recommendations, which would need to be approved by the full council. The meeting on Wednesday begins at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.

“We want to help the bargaining position of tenants in a very tight housing market while keeping in mind that the market is affected by economic cycles,” Brenerman said in a written statement. “We don’t want to over correct and tip the balance so drastically that it affects the quality and availability of housing for low-to-moderate income renters in our community.”

Strimling proposed more aggressive tenant protections, including several proposals that the city attorney said would either conflict with state laws or be difficult to enforce. The mayor, however, contended that the protections would be worth fighting for.


“In developing our package, we considered all of the proposals that came before us, many of which had conflicting views from the public,” Brenerman said. “Some of them were not included after we learned that they were already covered by or would conflict with existing state law, would have questionable legal basis, or because the city attorney advised that the Council could not implement them with its Home Rule authority.”

In response, Strimling called for “bold and decisive action” to protect renters, though he did not say whether the committee’s plan met that threshold. He said a woman who was being evicted this weekend without cause stopped by his office Tuesday afternoon.

“Any proposal that will gain my support must have a real, immediate and measurable impact on the housing insecurity that woman and so many others in Portland feel,” Srimling said. “I hope to work with the committee to move something to the full council that will allow us to look our neighbors in the eyes and tell them we did something that would make a real difference.”

The representatives from the Portland Tenants Union and the Portland Coalition for Housing Justice did not returns requests for comment. Those groups were in support of aggressive protections for renters, including rent control and a moratorium on so-called no-cause eviction, which can occur with 30 days notice when a tenant only has a monthly lease.

City Council Jon Hinck has suggested a Tenant Relocation Assistance ordinance similar to one in Seattle, which would provide funding to help pay some of the expenses of low-income residents who are displaced as a result of renovations, change of use or demolition.

Seattle’s ordinance provides about $3,500 in assistance to people who earn less than 50 percent of the area’s median income. That payment is split between the landlord and the city.

Duson and Brenerman are expected to suggest the committee take more time to examine that proposal, including potential funding sources.

“This is just one piece of a complex puzzle, and the first package we are putting forward,” Duson said in a written statement. “We have a number of ideas to research in terms of increasing the amount of housing and potential changes to the housing fund. We have not lost sight of these issues, and we anticipate teeing them up within the next three to four months.”

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