Two of the four candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot for the South Portland City Council will have the opportunity to craft a rent stabilization ordinance for the city.


Candidates Richard Matthews, Steven Silver, Natalie West and Brendan Williams are vying for two open seats on the council.

Each of the four say that South Portland residents need to be protected from extreme rent increases, such as the big hike that an out-of-state property management company imposed at Redbank Village Apartments earlier this year. They also want to take smaller, local landlords into consideration when determining that protection.

Silver, 36, a registered Democrat and a lawyer, thinks corporate landlords need to be the focus on any sort of rent control.

“In the case of corporate landlords, maybe rent control, or some separate negotiation, is the way to go,” Silver said. “But for smaller-scale landlords, rent control could make matters worse.”


Williams, 33, is a registered Democrat who serves on the city’s human rights commission and works in the food industry.


“I’m trying to focus more on the corporate landlords, such as Redbank,” he said. “A lot of young people and even senior citizens who have been living in the (Redbank) apartments for many years will be forced to leave the city. I don’t want that to happen.”

The City Council has been debating exemptions from a rent-control ordinance, part of which may be based on the number of units a landlord owns.


West, 75, is a registered Democrat with over 30 years of experience as an attorney for cities and local government agencies. She believes the council needs to take a data-based approach to come up with the appropriate number of units for an exemption. The City Council’s temporary eviction moratorium implemented in response to the Redbank rent hikes exempts landlords with 10 or fewer units.

“The number of exempting 10 units was sort of pulled out of a hat,” West said. “Let’s get some data about how the units are owned – what percentage of units are owned by local people,  and then come up with some numbers at 10, 15, 20, 25 that you’re going to exempt.”


All of the candidates, including Matthews, 56, a registered Democrat who spent 12 years on the city’s school board, believe more affordable housing will also help combat the rise in rents. 

“One of the things we need to address is the cost,” Matthews said. “We need to recognize that the demand is high and the available housing is low.”


The candidates also said that the city has handled as best it can the influx of asylum-seeking families and domestic unhoused people who have been temporarily sheltered in some of the city’s hotels.

Collaboration is key in fully addressing the influx, Matthews said.

“It’s a regional issue, and we need support from the county, the state, the federal (government),” he said. “We try to take care of each other, but we shouldn’t have to bear all the costs. We can’t bear all the costs.”

Silver agreed, and said South Portland should be “knocking on the doors” of neighboring municipalities.

“We should also consider working with local foundations with interest in these issues,” he said. “It’s up to the state as a whole to welcome these individuals and provide shelter. We can’t do it alone.”

The federal government requires asylum-seekers to wait 150 days before they can be authorized for employment, West said, and that wait time should be decreased.


“It’s just a very unfortunate system because we need these workers and they want to work,” West said. “One of the things I’ve urged the council to do is to pass a resolution supporting changes at the federal level, and I intend to pursue that and introduce such a resolution if I’m elected.”

Williams believes the services the city has provided can be expanded.

“I believe the fire department and the police department have done more than a phenomenal job,” Williams said. “But I do think we need to invest in more mental health services.”

The city’s public transportation system also needs some improvement, he said.

“I’m hearing impaired, and I get off work late, and sometimes the buses don’t even run that late,” he said.

People with disabilities largely rely on public transportation and they should be given free bus passes, he said.


“Many major cities have done this,” Williams said, “and I would like to see it implemented in South Portland.”

West fears that, with costs rising, the city budget will likely continue to rise as well, and she emphasized the need to find ways to keep tax increases low.

“I think we have to say, ‘How can we hold the line on taxes and still fulfill our goals?'” West said. “We need to be proactive and look for grant funds that will fund some of the things we want to do.”

The two winners in the Nov. 8 election will replace Katie Bruzgo, who resigned earlier this year, and Susan Henderson who did not seek reelection.

This story was edited Oct. 7 to correct the residency of Brendan Williams.

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