I have fought for affordable housing for years, but I did not support the Munjoy Hill Historic District (which would have included my own home) because I did not see sufficient evidence that it would help the cause of affordable housing. Absent that evidence, I could not support it.

We all were supposed to take it on faith that a historic district would help the cause of low-income renters, but we have seen in other cities how historic districts can actually entrench wealthy property owners and crowd out working folks with higher property values, rents and maintenance costs.

Proponents of the historic district say that there was “overwhelming public support” for the historic district. They present no evidence of that, either. I have met many folks in favor and many opposed. I never saw an “overwhelming” consensus.

Nor was there consensus on the City Council: Councilors Nicholas Mavodones and Pious Ali – who occupy opposite sides of Portland’s political spectrum – both opposed the district. That should give everyone pause.

Look at who was conspicuously absent from the historic district debate: the Maine Democratic Socialists of America, the Southern Maine Workers Center, Equity in Portland Schools, local unions, folks who normally show up for working-class causes – they all stayed away from this one. Why? Perhaps, like me, they did not think this was an effective way to preserve affordability.

If affordability is our goal, I personally think there are more impactful routes to take – like, for example, curbing Airbnbs.

Joey Brunelle

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