The Rental Housing Alliance of Southern Maine (formerly Southern Maine Landlords Association) says that unlimited increases in rent for vacated units would allow landlords to voluntarily keep rent low for existing tenants. However, Portland has two kinds of landlords: small ones with few units, who don’t charge more than they must, and property management firms, charged with getting as much value out of the investments they’re hired to manage as possible.

Small landlords can’t avoid increasing rents, to keep up with taxes, the cost of repairs, heating oil, electricity, etc. Property management firms must always increase as much as they can, or as much as the market will bear. Neither group has a choice. Just like wages and the cost of groceries, rent will go up. Preventing price gouging, as Portland’s rent control law does, is necessary to avoid unnecessary suffering and displacement. A 7% or so increase is not price gouging; it’s just the cost of inflation and rising taxes.

If this passes, tenants will face the same increases they would otherwise have faced, but their mobility will cease to exist. No working-class Portlander will ever find an apartment again. It’s a bad deal for the working class. We get nothing, except the guarantee that we’ll be incrementally replaced. It’s a bad deal for the restaurants that employ so many of us: They rely on employees being able to move to and live in Portland. It’s a bad deal for Portland. We get nothing. Vote “no” on June 13.

Winston Lumpkins

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