The 2015 changes to Portland’s R-6 peninsula zoning were intended to promote affordable housing. Unfortunately, under so-called “densification” zoning, the unique characteristics of Munjoy Hill have been sacrificed in favor of high-end housing, mostly condominiums, often achieved by eliminating affordable rental units.

Houses dating from the mid-1800s have been torn down. Not a single affordable unit has been built on the Hill since the 2015 zoning revisions. Land prices on the Hill are sky-high: A vacant lot, sufficient for a single-family home and away from the water, recently sold for $475,000.

These events led the City Council to enact a moratorium on tear-downs and adopt interim zoning for the Hill in December. With the tear-down option no longer available, builders have found the new rules workable and continue to apply for building permits.

City planning staff and Greater Portland Landmarks have done exemplary work documenting Hill architecture and proposing more permanent zoning, including reasonable demolition standards, which will be presented to the Planning Board on April 10. These changes, when combined with future work on historic preservation and city design standards, will help stabilize the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the prospects for new affordable housing on the Hill look dim. The city must find a way to protect residents in existing subsidized housing like Munjoy South, who are vulnerable simply because they enjoy a view.

Nini McManamy