I am responding to Greg Kesich’s Nov. 17 column, “We need more neighbors.”

Kesich says he wants more neighbors; instead, he should be wanting smarter housing policies that encourage long-term residents, because right now the housing policies basically are pushing out the working class and middle class.

The Portland Planning and Urban Development Department has consistently stated that its goal is for Portland’s population to increase. However, in the last six years, there have been 2,300 housing units approved, yet Portland’s population is actually dropping. The U.S. Census Bureau states Portland’s population as 66,777 in 2015; 66,892 in 2016; 66,882 in 2017, and 66,417 in 2018.

One may ask, “How can this be?” Portland city councilors have tailored most housing policies to encourage seasonal luxury condos and market-rate apartments rather than encouraging policies to allow for long-term affordable housing within Portland for the working class and middle class.

How to lessen the gentrification of Portland that City Hall has allowed? Below are some recommendations:

• Implement a vacancy tax on all seasonal housing and fund the Housing Trust Fund.

• Strengthen the weak and loopholed inclusionary zoning and workforce housing policy.

• Tighten Portland’s short-term rental policy, which is one of the weakest in the nation. Only one short-term rental unit should be allowed per property owner.

• Stop selling city-owned land; lease it only to affordable-housing developers, for a term of 45 years.

• Bring back the city’s New Neighbors program from the late 1990s. Designed to encourage owner-occupied rental properties, it provided 100 percent financing to help low- and moderate-income people buy small apartment buildings. In return, participants were required to live on site as landlords. It basically is the only workforce and middle-class housing policy.

• Implement more historic districts. There are only 11 city-designated historic districts, which represent only 8 percent of the area of Portland, yet 40 percent of the affordable housing in the last five years has been built in the historic districts.

• Ensure that accessory dwelling units add to long-term housing options rather than becoming another short-term rental channel.

• Have the city encourage individual property owners to take part in the Greater Portland Community Land Trust to protect future affordable housing.

• Update residential zoning off-peninsula to encourage higher density in traffic corridors, in a manner that is respectful to residents of districts 3 (Libbytown and Stroudwater); 4 (East Deering and Back Cove), and 5 (North Deering, Riverton and Deering Center). District 1 (East End-Munjoy Hill, Bayside, downtown and the islands) cannot handle any more seasonal luxury condos, which are gutting the district and dismantling the neighborhoods.

Greg Kesich wants more neighbors; instead, he should be wanting smarter housing policies that encourage neighbors who are long-term residents. The city of Portland has had plenty of opportunity to protect long-term housing; instead, it has allowed Portland to be taken up by property investors, which has reduced long-term housing opportunities, thus pushing out long-term residents and local businesses. Unless we take steps to stop it, Portland is definitely on its way in becoming soulless, just like Boston’s neighborhoods have become.


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