Alex Taddia of Portland reads his ballot at Merrill Auditorium Rehearsal Hall on Tuesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Portland voters Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a proposed change to the city’s rent control ordinance that would have eliminated the 5% cap on rent increases landlords are allowed to take when an apartment turns over.

Question A would have allowed landlords to reset base rents to whatever they want after a voluntary turnover. It was brought forward as a citizen-initiated referendum from the Rental Housing Alliance of Southern Maine, formerly known as the Southern Maine Landlord Association.

The question failed by a vote of 67% to 33%, or 7,740 to 3,872, with all precincts counted, including absentee ballots.

“Portland voters have fully embraced socialist housing policy and the most extreme rent control in the country,” Brit Vitalius, president of the Rental Housing Alliance, said in a written statement. “What’s next? We worry where this path will lead, which is to a worse housing crisis.

“Ironically, this result most punishes small mom-and-pop landlords who will exit the market, leaving only large corporate landlords and conversions to condos, all of which reduced options for renters,” he said.

Supporters of Question A said the proposal would prevent widespread annual rent increases because landlords would be able to raise rents by a larger amount when a tenant moves out and would not feel obligated to take advantage of the limited annual increases.


The current rent control ordinance, which was approved by voters in 2020 and updated in November, allows for a 5% increase in rent when a tenant moves out voluntarily, in addition to a limited set of other scenarios where landlords can increase rents.

Landlords also are allowed an automatic increase of 70% of the annual change in the Consumer Price Index, and can seek additional increases from the rent board for improvements or repairs. Rents cannot increase by more than 10% annually in rent-controlled apartments.

Opponents of Question A said the proposal would lead to price gouging on vacant units and would make it harder for working-class people and families to afford apartments that open up.

“Portland voters have voted to pass rent control three times now,” said Rose DuBois, chair of the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Livable Portland campaign.

The DSA was behind the original rent control ordinance approved by voters in 2020 and also initiated the updates approved in November.

“They outspent us by a ton but big money doesn’t win in Portland,” DuBois said. “It’s all about the people and tenants. Portland is a city of tenants, and tenants have seen how rent control has improved their lives and kept rents from going up. It’s here to stay and I think that’s a great thing.”


Kate McCarty, an election clerk, at East End Community School in Portland on Tuesday. Cullen McIntyre/Staff Photographer

In total, 11,640 people cast ballots Tuesday, or 23.7% of the 49,168 registered voters in the city.

Portland voters on Tuesday also approved a $143.8 million school budget that calls for a 5.7% increase in the school portion of the tax rate. The school budget passed with 76% of the vote, or by a margin of 8,811 — 2,428.

At Merrill Auditorium, Carol Morrissette, an election warden, said turnout was “amazingly high” for a June election. Last year’s June election saw 9,464 voters for a school budget referendum, school board elections and state primaries.

The auditorium had seen 260 voters come through by around 1:45 p.m. “Last year we had 12 voters by noon,” said Morrissette, who added that she thought Question A was driving higher numbers.

“There’s been a lot of chatter about it,” she said.

Zack Gaydos, 29, said he voted “no.”

“We passed rent control last year,” Gaydos said. “It was a good measure that passed and I don’t think it needed to be amended, especially with this proposal, which was only encouraging landlords to kick people out of their apartments so they can raise the rent to ‘fair market value.'”

Carl Cappello, 81, said he also voted against the question. “In a city with property values rising as quickly as they are, there needs to continue to be protections in place for tenants, even when a property becomes vacant,” said Cappello, who said he is a renter.

Supporters of Question A raised and spent far more money campaigning. The Committee to Improve Rent Control had raised more than $218,000 in cash and spent more than $82,000 as of June 2. The Livable Portland campaign raised $17,200 and spent about $7,000.

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