Redbank Village residents, neighbors and state legislators Tuesday urged the South Portland City Council to quickly enact an emergency moratorium on evictions to prevent Redbank tenants from losing their homes in the face of drastic rent hikes.

JRK Property Holdings of Los Angeles, which purchased the 500-unit Redbank Village Apartments off Westbrook Street in November, has notified the mostly low- and moderate-income tenants that their monthly rents will increase anywhere from $200 to $600 depending on how soon they renew leases.

A six-month emergency moratorium, advocates said, would bar any landlord in the city from evicting tenants due to lack of payment on rent that increased after April 1.

The City Council on Tuesday scheduled a workshop for next month to consider rent stabilization, but advocates at the meeting said that’s not soon enough. Rent stabilization is needed, they said, but immediate action is necessary.

“We have to understand who we’re dealing with,” April Caricchio, a former city councilor, told the council. “They’re not going to wait a month to sort ourselves out.”

Rep. Chris Kessler, D-South Portland, said a moratorium is needed now.


“I would request that this council do, please, whatever you can under the law to place a moratorium on evictions,” Kessler said. “We’ve done everything that we can this past legislative session to really boost housing … it’s not going to happen fast enough for the people at Redbank, and people like them.”

If enacted, an eviction moratorium would buy Redbank tenants time while city officials navigate the legal process of implementing some form of rent stabilization.

Sixteen organizations back the request for an emergency moratorium, Rep. Victoria Morales, D-South Portland told the council. Those include The Opportunity Alliance, the South Portland Housing Authority and Community Housing of Maine.

While the workshop on rent stabilization is slated for June, councilors, including Kathryn Lewis, said they wanted it held earlier.

“I think we need this (rent stabilization) workshop right away,” Lewis said. “We have some dire situations going on here in South Portland.”

The next council workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, May 27. City Manager Scott Morelli did not respond to requests for comment before The Forecaster’s print deadline Wednesday.


Tenants, who spoke anonymously at Tuesday’s meeting fearing retribution from their landlord, said they would be forced to move out of South Portland or even become homeless because they could not afford the rent increases.

“My rent is going up by $400,” one woman said. “How are my roommate and I supposed to pay $2,600 a month?”

Proponents of the emergency moratorium read comments they received from tenants.

“We are low-income people, we are hardworking people,” wrote one tenant facing a $550 rent hike to $2,100. “I hope someone helps us.”

“I was only given nine days to renew,” said another whose rent is going up by $300. “My rent will be almost half my income.”

Kessler said he experienced a similar situation in 2015 that set his family on the verge of homelessness.


“What these families are going through is uncalled for, it lacks morality, and there is no good reason for it,” Kessler said. “It’s pure greed.”

Councilor Jocelyn Leighton said racism is part of the mix.

“JRK Holdings … is doing exactly what the system of capitalism and racism are designed to do – keep vulnerable communities powerless and make profits off of them,” Leighton told The Forecaster Wednesday in an email.

“This company has more legal protection than the tenants because of racist systems in place,” she said, and vowed to work to “fight against this heinous undertaking.”

Proponents of the eviction moratorium presented the findings of a survey of Redbank residents.  Roughly 60% of respondents said they had lived at Redbank for over five years, 70% said they had children living in their unit, and 90% said they were living with three or more people.

Board of Education Chairperson Elyse Tipton said teachers have reported overhearing students from Redbank telling friends they might have to move away from South Portland.

“They’re hearing the adults in their homes talking about this, and they’re sharing with those adults the stress it’s putting on families,” Tipton said.

Resident Max Wibby said a friend of his living at Redbank may have to move.

“People are scared, they’re worried, they don’t know what to do,” Wibby said in an interview with The Forecaster. “I think it’s really unfortunate that this is happening and I think that this is something that we’re going to see repeated over and over. We need to figure something out so this doesn’t keep happening.”

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