After attending college, I have returned to a different Portland from the one in which I grew up.

Like many 20-somethings, I am struggling to settle in my hometown because of the lack of affordable housing. Portland prides itself on its community-oriented appeal, but that has not stopped out-of-state developers from building luxury housing and hotels, and displacing many members of that community in the process.

The burden of unaffordable rents inspired me to attend a hearing in Augusta on L.D. 308, which would require landlords to give tenants longer notification periods for no-cause evictions and rent increases. Currently, tenants have only 30 days to find a new apartment after receiving notice of a rent increase or a no-cause eviction, and an extra month would make a huge difference for many renters in an intensely competitive rental market. This situation forces many into couch-surfing, accepting coercive leases and, in many cases, to living on the street.

At the hearing, I was shocked to hear Rep. Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, who was leading the opposition to this bill, flippantly declare, “If you can’t afford to rent in Portland, you should move to Auburn.”

Her assumption that moving to a different city is a viable option for members of Portland’s vulnerable communities betrays a callous disregard for those who are most affected. For many, moving out of Portland would mean finding a new job, forcing their children to change schools, leaving their friends and families, reducing access to public transportation and losing access to vital social services.

Chastising those affected by gentrification for not “just moving” isn’t only counterproductive – it also suggests that stable habitation is a privilege reserved for those who can afford it, and that Maine’s pro-community values are nothing more than a marketing ploy.

Please pass L.D. 308.

Sophia Lanman

Portland


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