The two candidates vying for the District 2 seat on the Portland City Council seat say housing affordability is the No. 1 issue residents in their ward face.

Jon Hinck and Victoria Pelletier hope to be elected Nov. 2 to represent the West End and Parkside. The seat was most recently held by Spencer Thibodeau, who joined the council in 2016, chose not to run for a third term and resigned from the council last month.

Pelletier, a newcomer, said she and other residents feel as if they are being priced out of their homes and more inclusionary zoning could be a solution. Exclusionary zoning, such as barring multi-family houses in certain areas, “adds to segregation,” she said.

“The working class is being pushed out and into certain areas. I want to look at our exclusionary zoning laws, whether these need to exist,” Pelletier said. “We could make room for more multi-unit housing, which can open up options for people that want to live here, raise families here and put down roots.”

She also wants to create clear definitions of “affordable housing” that are aimed at the working class and based on the median income in an area.

Affordable now means it won’t be five grand, only two grand, but that’s not acceptable,” she said.It’s important for us to dive deep into what people are making and what the income of the area is.”

Pelletier also wants to make sure the city is properly limiting short-term rentals like Airbnbs.

Hinck, a former city councilor and state legislator, said he supports more inclusionary zoning, but he would also add fees to large developments to pay for affordable housing projects.

“Some of the ideas that come up are incentives generated from housing linkage fees on large commercial developments to support building affordable housing, focused particularly on housing along the (public) transit service corridor,” he said. 

Concentrating affordable housing within easy access to public transit is a good urban development concept, he said. 

Hinck said he would use his previous political experience to work on relaxing housing density regulations to allow for more housing, including in historic areas and downtown. He would also encourage landowners to build housing on their property.

“Portland has moved in that direction some, but it’s challenging traditionally for people to use their property to add housing,” Hinck said. “There are actually – even in the densely populated (areas) – residents who have room on the property to build smaller additional units to their (lot).” 

Hinck said he would begin to address violent crime in Bayside and elsewhere in the city by engaging neighborhood groups. He is also open to ideas from the greater community.   

Two knife attacks in Bayside in July  were followed a number of attacks on women in West End, as well as an attack on a man sitting on a bench at Fort Sumner Park on Munjoy Hill.

“Boosting community engagement and collaboration can always help. Sometimes the neighborhood association is one of the best places to start to get a sort of neighborhood collaboration to address crime,” Hinck said. “Other times city services other than just law enforcement need to be more engaged in a neighborhood that has a rising crime statistic.” 

Community anti-crime initiatives are important, Pelletier said, and she would like to see more city funding go towards creating programs like “Walk With Me West-End,” a buddy sign-up system she helped start over the summer so people don’t have to walk alone.

“We are still seeing reports of suspicious behavior, women being followed home. It’s still happening,” she said.

Programs that provide free rides or hotlines for vulnerable residents should be funded, she said.

To learn where to vote come Nov. 2, visit the city website.

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