Portland residents rejected a rent-limit proposal Tuesday night in a lopsided 13,466 to 7,595 vote, according to unofficial results posted by the city.
The referendum’s backers pitched it as a temporary brake on this decade’s rapid rent hikes, which forced many middle- and lower-income Portland residents off the city’s peninsula or even out of the city altogether. But they faced stiff, well-financed opposition from landlords at both ends of the spectrum — those who rent at market rate and affordable housing groups, too.
Brit Vitalius, president of the Southern Maine Landlords Association, said the wide margin of the proposal’s defeat shows that the city’s referendum process can too easily be a distraction from more productive means of debating public policy — such as before the city council.
“What that told me is the referendum process in Portland is broken, that we would have to raise this much money and take this much time to fight an ordinance that actually had so little support,” he said.
Many opponents said they were less worried about proposed restrictions on rent hikes than by new eviction rules that could have extended occupancy by nuisance tenants.
Portland voters also turned down a measure that would have given immediate neighbors of developments that request zoning changes a chance to veto them.
The proposal was spearheaded by neighbors of a former farm in the city’s Stroudwater area that was rezoned to permit 95 single-family homes. But voters citywide opposed the veto effort in a 10,887 to 9,747 vote, according to the city’s unofficial results. The measure even failed in the Stroudwater precinct.