The South Portland City Council will put a rent control ordinance to a vote next month over the objections of three of its seven members.

“I get that a bad situation happened,” Councilor Richard Matthews said at a workshop Tuesday, referring to rent spikes at Redbank Village Apartments last spring that spurred the rent control ordinance. “If that bad situation hadn’t even happened, would we even be sitting here having this discussion? Probably not, in my opinion.”


Councilors Linda Cohen and Misha Pride also said they were against enacting any form of rent control.

“I think that this is a private enterprise and I don’t think it is the government’s place to be getting into telling people what they can charge for their commodity, whether it’s rent or groceries or clothing,” Cohen said.

The ordinance would set a 10% cap on annual rent increases across the city, but not for landlords who own 15 or fewer rental units. Units that are already regulated or subsidized by federal and state law would also be exempt from the cap.

“I think it’s very important for us to send a message to those big landlords just changing and (imposing) high rents on folks who can hardly even pay for their rent as it is,” Councilor Deqa Dhalac said.



In May, California-based JRK Holdings, owner of the Redbank apartments, raised rents there by as much as $598 per month. The council enacted a moratorium capping rent increases citywide at 10%, which is in effect until May 27.

One reason the three councilors said they are against rent control is their concern that it may act as an incentive for landlords to raise rents to the maximum each year.

Councilors Jocelyn Leighton, Natalie West, and Mayor Katherine Lewis, who spoke in favor of the rent cap, said while also wary of unintended consequences, they are more worried about what may happen if rent control is not enacted.

“The unintended consequence of doing nothing is that hundreds of families are evicted, and I think that’s something we wanted to avoid,” Lewis said.

One area of disagreement in the drafted ordinance was the hard 10% cap rather than a cap that factors in the rate of inflation. City Manager Scott Morelli noted that amendments can be made when the ordinance is on the council agenda next month.

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